It's not officially a drought here in West Michigan. Yet.

I had friends who lived in Phoenix, Ariz. and when I came out to visit them, they would always tell me, the heat won't bother you so much because it's a DRY heat.

To heck with that, HEAT is HEAT, and even though the humidity has fled West Michigan, the heat and the dryness remain. The Department of Natural Resources earlier this month issued a 'red flag' fire warning for most of lower Michigan from I-96 north to the bridge.

Now, local fire officials in some Northeastern Michigan counties are issuing burn bans and are urging caution in starting or using fires from now until a good rain soaks the region.

According to Alpena's WKBK-TV:

...firefighters are urging everyone to take extra safety precautions to prevent starting fires. This means waiting to burn debris and holding off on using lawn mowers or other outdoor machinery.

 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says that in very dry conditions heat from something like a lawn mower can ignite dry grass. Currently, there is no burn ban in effect but burn permits are not being issued in the Northern lower peninsula until the area receives a significant amount of rainfall.

Really? A lawn mower could start a fire. Absolutely says the DNR's Paul Rogers, who told MLive.com:

The layer of decomposing leaves and grasses in the ground has dried out. That means fires that do ignite will burn down into the soils layer, making it harder, and more time-consuming, to put the fire out.

This means that the heat from a lawn mower or the exhaust pipe of an all-terrain vehicle can ignite dry grass, Rogers added.

Even something that creates sparks like sparklers, firecrackers or even a trailer chain dragging on the ground could set off a fire. So you've been put on notice.

Locally, fire officials have instituted burn bans in Newaygo, Muskegon and Mecosta Counties, and most counties north of there have followed suit. Currently the DNR burn page shows open burning has been banned throughout most of Northern Lower Michigan.

Are we close to drought conditions yet in Michigan? Real close. The US Drought Monitor says parts of Mid-Michigan have crossed the threshold into early drought conditions, with the rest of the state not far behind.