Fire officials urge caution during dry conditions

Officials from area fire departments are on the offensive this week when it comes to preventing wildfires.
Becky Vargo
Jul 4, 2012

Grand Haven Township Fire Chief Tom Gerencer went door to door along the lakeshore Tuesday, dropping off informational fliers and warning people about the present fire danger.

"Grand Haven Township has been experiencing very dry, hot weather conditions over the past two weeks," he said. "These conditions accompanied with poor judgment have caused several wildfires and structure fires throughout Ottawa County."

Gerencer said he was greeted positively about his message.

Members of the Poorman family, in town for their mother’s 80th birthday, talked with Gerencer at their rental cottage on Lake Michigan, just south of Buchanan Street.

“We take a lot of precautions,” said Andy Poorman of Kansas City, Mo. “That probably comes from scouting.”

Poorman said several members of his family had spent years in Boy Scouts and he had been a leader for six years. Regardless, he said he appreciated the information from the fire chief.

“We probably will shoot off more (fireworks),” Poorman said. “We’re doing it on the beach.”

Gerencer said education is key to keeping people safe and preventing fires. It doesn’t matter whether or not fireworks are against the law, he said, people are going to light them off anyway.

“What we can do is educate,” he added.

The chief said people in some neighborhood associations along the lakeshore even helped him distribute fliers. He said residents in the Wilderness area, which has 50 homes and cottages, planned to make use of social media to get the word out.

About five years ago, Gerencer said fireworks touched off a wildfire in the Wilderness area. It caught a home's walkway, steps and deck on fire. Firefighters were able to stop the blaze before it took the house.

“They don’t allow fireworks at all in there now,” he said.

The South Highland Association off Brucker Street had a fire about 10 years ago that took out a cottage, the chief said. Gerencer said the association president planned to hand out the fliers.

“They’re so fearful of fire up there," Gerencer said.

Gerencer said there are some basic steps that can be taken to help protect the area from a wildfire, including responsible use of fireworks and recreational fire safety.

The flier outlines the potential problems and gives ideas on ways to prevent fires. On the back is an evacuation plan.

Wildfires like the recent ones in Colorado and Michigan's U.P. can happen here, Gerencer said.

Poorman, who was recently in Colorado, said it was a scary experience.

“It blocked out the sun,” he said of the smoke.

The cities of Grand Haven and Norton Shores also sent out dry condition alerts on Tuesday.

"The Grand Haven Department of Public Safety urges everyone to refrain from recreational fires and the use of consumer fireworks during these severely hot/dry conditions," noted Lt. Renee Freeman. "Fire risk is extremely high."

Norton Shores officials were urging the public to refrain from lighting off their own fireworks this year and instead enjoy the public displays in the local communities.

Anyone with questions or concerns can call Gerencer at 616-604-6322 or e-mail him at




Haha, as a Cop I know some of these guys personally. They love fireworks! But they also love safety! Please be safe this wednesday people!!!

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