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Posted on Tue, Jun 12, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.

'Severely dry conditions': Officials issue open burn bans in light of recent fires

By John Counts


Responders from Huron Valley Ambulance administer oxygen to this cat, which was caught in a Saline house fire on Sunday. Fire officials think the dry conditions played a part in how the fire spread so quickly.

Courtesy of the Saline Area Fire Department

Editor's note: The title of Pittsfield Township Fire Chief Sean Gleason has been corrected in this article. There has also been information added regarding Ypsilanti and Augusta townships.

Pittsfield Township firefighters fought three grass fires three days in a row last week.

The Ann Arbor Fire Department attended to three small grass fires on the eastbound lane of Interstate 94 near the Ann Arbor-Saline Road exit Tuesday around 4:30 p.m.

Extremely dry conditions link these fires and have caused fire officials in Pittsfield and Saline to issue bans on open burns until further notice.

A resident was burning yard waste Sunday in the driveway of a home in the 1300 block of Judd Road when it spread to nearby shrubs, a deck and finally the house itself.

“It was dry. That was part of the problem,” Saline Area Fire Chief Craig Hoeft said. “It was a perfect example of how quick it can happen. It’s dangerous out there.”

The blaze in Saline even had firefighters administering oxygen to the rescued family cat.

No one was injured in the fire, but the family feline was inside when fire crews arrived.

“The firefighters pulled the cat out of the house,” said Hoeft. “The firefighters got it out and the paramedics gave it oxygen.”

Since there seems to be no reprieve from the dry weather in sight, Hoeft issued a ban on open burn piles. This includes Lodi, York and Saline townships in addition to the city of Saline.

Pittsfield Township issued a similar ban on open burn piles after three grass fires in three days, according to Fire Chief Sean Gleason.

Pittsfield firefighters fought grass fires near the 6000 block of Carpenter Road Thursday, Lohr and Textile roads Friday and U.S. 23 and Washtenaw Avenue Saturday.

“We’re under severely dry conditions,” Gleason said. “The rainfall we got (Monday) wasn’t even close. Once (a fire) takes off, it goes any way the wind is going.”


This house in Saline is now uninhabitable after Sunday's fire. The type of yard waste burning that is believed to have caused it is now banned because of dry conditions.

Courtesy of the Saline Area Fire Department

When it’s this dry, embers from virtually anything - such a flicked lit cigarette - could be enough to start a dangerous fire, officials said.

In the case of Tuesday’s grass fire on I-94, the fire was probably due to sparks from a wrecker towing a car, according to Steven Lowe, a battalion chief with the Ann Arbor Fire Department.

“Because it’s a little drier, it might be more of an issue,” he said. “If it continues to be dry, it could be more of a problem.”

The Ann Arbor Fire Department said opening burning is not allowed in the city, but they are still responding to the arid weather by not issuing any types of burn permits until the dry spell snaps.

Vic Chevrette, who serves as fire marshal for Ypsilanti Township and fire chief for Augusta Township, said both of those municipalities have also issued a ban on open burns.

"Vegetation is just too dry and the little ran we got the other day was not sufficient to keep everything green," he said.

The Dexter Area Fire Department and the Chelsea Area Fire Department said they currently do not have any additional restrictions on burns. Dexter fire officials said they typically follow the state’s Department of Natural Resources lead in the matter of any type of burn bans.

Fire departments in Ann Arbor and Scio townships also have not issued any bans. Some fire officials at those departments also said they would if the DNR asked them to.

“As a general rule, you expect people to control burning their yard waste,” said Scio Township Fire Chief Carl Ferch.

When in doubt, fire officials urge the public to contact their local fire authority to find out the current regulations.

John Counts covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

Colorado has problems. The UP has problems. I guess I need to water the yard before I shoot off the works.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

Please people, do not throw your cigarette butts out the window of your car! I really hope we get some rain soon. This is depressing.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

It doesn't really say it was the house of the man doing the burning. Wonder if he called for a burning permit, it doesn't say in the article.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 11:34 a.m.

What the article should include is to why it has been so dry. Precipitation across much of Southeastern Michigan has been running about 37% of normal since May 1st. At Detroit, normal rain amount for May 1st to present is a little 5.8 inches but only 2.2 has fallen. The high sun angle leads to optimum evaporation rates. This means that we would need about a quarter inch of rain per day to break even. The lack of rainfall the past 6 plus weeks has lead to impacts of dry soils, drying lawns and brush.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 11:40 a.m.

Yes there are two very serious local issues totally ignored here....surprised? One is the drought we are experiencing. The other is the fact that the hot March and 26F lo at the end of April wiped out the apple, plum,pear, peach crop in Michigan.....and we have some big orchards in this area.

dading dont delete me bro

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 10:32 a.m.

"The Ann Arbor Fire Department attended to three small grass fires on the eastbound lane of Interstate 94 near the Ann Arbor-Saline Road exit Tuesday around 4:30 p.m." all i saw was a whole lot of backed up traffic.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 2:12 a.m.

What is the definition of "open burn"? I've seen different neighbors (we live within AA city limits) , 1) burn yard waste, and 2) utilize an above-ground fire pit. Are these considered "open burn"?


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

Within city limits, you can have fires for cooking or for recreation, but both have to be up off the ground, and there are special limits around apartment buildings: To have a fire on the ground you have to get a bonfire permit from the Fire Department, not cheap: Burning yard waste is not permitted, in part for fire safety reasons, but also to protect air quality.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 3:54 a.m.

Classy Wondering. There's certainly something else I can think, but I don't believe I'm allowed to say it here. Oops. Sorry. I mean I'm sure I can't say it here. Thanks for your entirely unhelpful non-answer here. I'll be sure to forego any disclaimers of uncertainty in the future when I share my best understanding of public ordinance. No doubt a false air of expertise would be much more well received.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 3:27 a.m.

amlive- You seem to probably think or assume 7 times in your response. Are you sure you did not probably think anything else? RunsWithScissors- Here a a link from Ann Arbor on definition for open burning Hope this is helpful.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 3:06 a.m.

I'm pretty sure that raised fire pits are grouped under the same regulations as charcoal grills, so they're probably okay. Burning yard waste on open ground however, I believe is illegal within the city limits unless you obtain a special burn permit, so that's probably against the rules even without the fire ban. So probably nothing changed from business as usual within the city proper, though I'm not 100% sure so confirmation would be nice. I am curious about the fireworks though. With this being the first year of airborne fireworks being legal, I assume officials may have to put them back under temporary ban if conditions don't improve.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 1:56 a.m.

Oh wow no kidding cash and this year all fireworks are legal so theres going to be a lot of them going off.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 12:30 a.m.

Just imagine when people start shooting off fireworks. This is really dangerous.