Stand 1 - Crane Lake Prescribed Fire
On May 5, 1980 employees of the Mio Ranger District, Huron-Manistee National Forests ignited the Crane Lake Prescribed Fire. They intended to burn a 28 acre unit, along side State Highway M-33. The goal was to reduce the slash fuel load to prepare the site for planting jack pine to create habitat for the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler. Fuels on the site included grass, shrubs and scattered discontinuous logging slash. Resources on hand were 11 personnel, 1 John Deere 450 tractor plow, a 125 gallon engine, and a 6x6 1000 gallon engine. Several of the personnel were inexperienced or were not very familiar with this fuel type. The tractor plow operator was also inexperienced and planned to have his final certification on the plow later in the week. The primary operator of the tractor was not available along with several other firefighters due to a training class being held that day. The burn was surrounded by tractor plow line. The Burn Boss planned to ignite the fire around 0900 and complete the burn before 1200. The afternoon weather conditions were predicted to have temperatures in the 80’s, humidity in the 20’s with gusty southwest winds changing to northwest due to the predicted passage of a cold front during the mid-afternoon.
Due to wildfires the previous day, they were not ready to ignite the burn until 1026. During the initial stages of the fire it spotted 4 times along the east control line. These spots were quickly suppressed. However, the fire continued to cause control problems and the 125 gallon engine became stuck on a stump and then later broke down. These problems complicated the suppression of 3 more spot fires. The seventh spot fire on the north flank escaped containment. The 1000 gallon engine radioed that the seventh spot fire was moving east towards the highway.