By N3 News Team
The Oak Wildfire in southeastern Brooks Township consumed a bit over 100 acres of National Forest as well as the attention of folks near and far.
What impressed us most at N3 World Headquarters was the rapid response it drew from all the resources who were at the ready for what could have been a far more destructive event had it not been contained and managed with such efficiency.
We pressed upon Newaygo County’s Emergency Services Manager Abby Watkins to guide us through the process of how this situation was managed and she not only graciously agreed but also enlisted the assistance of others in responding.
Because as you should certainly know by now, ES is all about collaboration.
What time did this begin and how was it called in. Who was notified first. I know its still undetermined how but do we know where it started?
From the Michigan DNR: The Oak Fire was reported at approximately 6:45 p.m. south of M-82 in Newaygo County, just over 6 miles east of the City of Newaygo. The
estimated 105-acre fire, located primarily on federal land, was contained at around 1
a.m. Wednesday, May 2, 2018. Fire crews stopped the head of the fire before it reached M-82, although the flanks of the fire were still very active. This fire burned primarily in mature pine and oak. Two residences were evacuated and 15 structures were threatened, but excellent work by 11 local volunteer fire departments, U.S. Forest Service crews and DNR fire crews resulted in all of the structures being saved. The fire initially caused the closure of M-82 between Elm Ave and Spruce Ave, which has since reopened. Fire crews continued fire-suppression and mop-up efforts throughout the day on Wednesday. The cause of the fire is undetermined and currently under investigation.
The word on this spread as quickly it seems as the fire. What was the mechanism used for doing this?
Newaygo County uses multiple methods to disseminate emergency information in order to target the largest number of people possible. It is up to you to choose which
notification methods work best for you to receive the emergency information. If you
have text and internet capabilities, Newaygo County recommends registering for Nixle Alerts. This is a FREE service residents can register for to receive alerts via Text, Email, Web, Social Media, and the Nixle App. Alerts and emergency information are received in real time for localized emergency situations relevant to the community. To register, text your Zip Code or Newaygo ES to 888777 from your mobile phone. Anyone can view information through the Nixle Website without registering to receive alerts at
During an emergency, it is important to choose your source of information wisely.
Newaygo County recommends only trusting and sharing information being released
from factual, public safety sources. This information is fact checked before it is released.
Social media sites, such as facebook and twitter, can help spread factual information
but it also easy to spread non-factual information. In addition, those monitoring radio scanner communications only capture ¼ of the radio communications occurring between a small portions of the emergency responders on scene. During incidents like this, information can change very rapidly as the situation progresses. Often initial information heard on a scanner may not represent the whole common operating picture. This information needs to be verified by Incident Command before it is released to the public to ensure it is factual.
What group of people were in in the decision making during response?
Newaygo Fire Department, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and the
National Forest Service were in Unified Incident Command making decisions together during this response. Unified Command allows agencies to work together to respond to an incident more effectively by establishing a common set of response objectives, sharing resources, avoiding duplication of efforts, collaborating on strategies, and improving information flow.
How many Fire departments responded?
United States Forest Service
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Newaygo Fire Department
Fremont Fire Department
Grant Fire Department
Croton Township Fire Department
Sand Lake Fire Department
Big Prairie Fire Department
Lilley Township Fire Department
White Cloud Fire Department
Hesperia Fire Department
Solon Township Fire Department
Mecosta-Austin Fire Department (Backfill)
Casnovia Fire Department (Backfill)
Pleasant Plains Fire Department (Backfill)
Supporting and Cooperating Agencies:
American Red Cross
Newaygo County Road Commission
Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office
Michigan State Police
Newaygo County Central Dispatch
Newaygo County Emergency Services
Grant Rent All
Fremont Rent All
Hilltop Gas Station
Leppinks Food Center
How was the danger to residents assessed? Were evacuation plans in place and how did this work?
Two residences were evacuated and 15 structures were threatened. This was
determined based on the location of the fire and general direction and speed the fire
was traveling. However, because of excellent work by 11 local volunteer fire
departments, U.S. Forest Service crews and DNR fire crews, there were no loss of
structures and no injuries.
For smaller incidents which are or have the potential to require emergency protective measures, such as this wildfire, targeted and/or comprehensive warning systems are utilized. This includes door-to-door notifications, Nixle Alerts, NOAA Weather Radio Alerts, and media messaging. For larger incidents which impact multiple homes over a widespread area, the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) system will be utilized. When possible, information will be as specific as possible and include actual location of the fire, approximate size, direction the fire is moving, communities/areas at risk, and evacuation information.
There are three different levels of evacuation:
LEVEL 1 Evacuation: BE READY
A Level 1 Evacuation means “BE READY” for potential evacuation. Residents should be aware of the danger that exists in their area, monitor emergency services websites and local media outlets for information. This is the time for preparation and precautionary movement of persons with special needs, mobile property and (under certain circumstances) pets and livestock. If conditions worsen, public safety personnel may contact residents via Nixle and other comprehensive warning systems directing them to take further action.
LEVEL 2 Evacuation: BE SET
A Level 2 Evacuation means “BE SET” to evacuate. Residents should be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. This level indicates there is significant danger to the area, and residents should either voluntarily relocate to a shelter or with family/friends outside of the affected area, or if choosing to remain, to be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
Residents MAY have time to gather necessary items, but doing so is at their own risk. Residents should understand, this may be the only notice that they receive. Public Safety personnel cannot guarantee that they will be able to notify them if conditions rapidly deteriorate.
LEVEL 3 Evacuation: LEAVE IMMEDIATELYY
A Level 3 Evacuation means “GO” Evacuate NOW, LEAVE IMMEDIATELY! Danger to the area is current or imminent, and residents should evacuate immediately. If residents choose to ignore this direction they must understand that public safety personnel may not be available to assist them further.
Residents should NOT delay leaving to gather any belongings. This will be the last notice residents receive. Expect entry to evacuated areas to be denied until conditions are safe.
This was one if those perfect storms of no humidity, wind, spring debris lying about, dry conditions, etc. With a fire advisory out is there more preparation in place when this is all coming together and the potential is high?
Upon identification of a high risk day, the Department of National Resources and
National Forest Service will pre-stage resources in order to minimize response times.
Taskforces are staffed at each office and a spotter plane flies the area in the afternoons to allow for a rapid identification, location, and response to minimize the impact of a wildfire. During the Oak Wildfire, DNR taskforces came from Oceana, Baldwin, and Muskegon will Bulldozers mobilized from Allegan and Yankee Springs.
How was it contained so quickly and effectively?
This wildfire was contained so quickly and effectively due to well trained, equipped, and prepared fire departments. The Fire Departments serving Newaygo County have
pre-existing, cohesive working relationships on a local, State, and Federal level due to routine training and conducting emergency drills together. Because of this united effort, along with early detection, recognition, and rapid actions by leadership and line personnel, the fire departments were able to protective the lives and homes of our community during this wildfire.
What is your personal assessment of the response?
From Newaygo Fire Chief Jason Wolford: “I am extremely proud to be part of a team that serves an amazing community. The outpouring of support for Newaygo Fire during the recent historically large wild landfire was a true testament to that. Local fire departments, MSP, Newaygo County Sheriff, DNR, US Forest Service, Life EMS, local and county elected officials, businesses, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Newaygo County Emergency Services, Newaygo County 911, and many others did an amazing job at mitigating a large scale incident that could have negatively impacted the lives and property of many citizens. From all of us at Newaygo Fire, a very heartfelt thank you!”
In March you received awards for your work on fire preparedness and just over a month later this occurs. How did the preparation in place serve to lessen the results of this event?
In partnership with the local fire departments, National Forest Service and Department of Natural Resources, Newaygo County Emergency Services has an ongoing wildfire prevention program to lessen and reduce wildfire hazards within identified wildland urban interface areas. These high risk areas are pre-identified within seven townships within Newaygo County. Emergency Plans and rapid response protocols are in place for how to respond to wildfires within these areas. Knowing the Oak Ave area was pre-identified as a high risk area, the Fire Departments rapidly mobilized resources and activated rapid response protocols. This quick action helped contain the fire so quickly and effectively.
Another component of the wildfire mitigation project is funding provided by the Forest Service. These funds allow Newaygo County to partner with homeowners in
pre-identified risk areas adjacent to federal property to reduce hazardous fuels and
vegetation, promote fire safe landscaping projects, and create defensible spaces
around homes. As 90 percent of wildfires are started by people, property owners can
make a difference to reduce the wildfire danger in their neighborhood. For additional information about how to get involved with the wildfire mitigation project, please contact the Newaygo County Emergency Services Department at 231-689-7354.
Anything else you’d like to add?