Although there can be no wins when a fire claims much of a 21,000+ acre area, a commercial resort, 49 cabins and homes, 87 outbuildings and campers, as you tour the area as we did recently, one cannot help but be struck by the sheer number of structures which were spared on the interior of the containment footprint and those which bounded its perimeter. Many homes and cabins were literallywithin but a few feet of the fire’s wake and came away with little or no damage.
Obviously, this does nothing to ease the losses of those who were less fortunate who, in many cases, lost structures which had stood for generations. Many were likely filled with memories and memorabilia from seasons of deer and grouse, trout and blueberries. For those individuals, no insurance settlement can replace what can be recalled by a mere glimpse of where a potbellied stove used to stand.
For the rest of us, however, there appears to be much we can take away from such an event. The success of the fire suppression effort should first be measured by the absence of serious injury and no loss of life. As one marvels at the recuperative powers of nature, one cannot help but come away with the sense that of all of the systems which were tested by such a massive fire, it was the bio-communities which were the least of those impacted.
From a fire response and containment standpoint, we struggle to see how anyone could give this MDNR-led effort anything but the highest of marks. The outpouring of gratitude and thanks from those Newberry residents who gathered nightly near this community’s northerly limits to welcome the returning fire-fighters has been well documented.
Still, there are those who cannot help but find a dark cloud behind every silver lining, especially when it comes to any action or reaction by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. On this occasion, it seems the best such individuals can do is to suggest that the Department has sought too much credit for doing a job “they are paid to do” – yes, we’ve actually hear these comments.
To those I would say, take the drive, see for yourself and along the way you will encounter the unsolicited “thank you” signs which are found at the ends of two-track roads which lead to a hunting camps which were saved and not just “spared.”
Going forward, there is much that can be learned about an effort which is now accomplished with fewer MDNR Forestry resource employees operating on fewer financial resources. Through reciprocal agreements with regional states and provinces, together with the now routine deployment of MDNR staff members from other divisions, this truly is a model for how things can sometimes be done more effectively with less.
Although there may be some take-away’s for this which have application to other aspects of Michigan’s natural resource management, it is unlikely to extend beyond that of creative and innovative thinking. We will not be entering into reciprocal agreements any time soon that will help with our day-to-day and season-to-season Fisheries, Wildlife, Parks, and Forest Management. For those, there is no alarm which says “pull in case of fire.”