Smoke led to busy day for MCFD

April 7, 2019

MICHIGAN CITY — The hazy smoke that drifted over the city from a controlled burn at Indiana Dunes National Park kept the Michigan City Fire Department phones ringing Tuesday afternoon.

The smoke could be seen – and smelled – Tuesday afternoon and evening across much of the northern half of the city, leading to “numerous calls” to the fire department.

Most of the smoke visible locally was likely from the National Park’s “controlled fire near Beverly Shores,” according to Michigan City Fire Chief Randy Novak.

The fire in northeast Porter County was actually the second of two controlled burns at the park, according to the National Park Service. The one that spread the smoke across the city was set in the afternoon between Beverly Shores and Mount Baldy, a 218-acre Kansas Avenue Prescribed Fire, the park service explained.

Reports of smoke were heard throughout the day from the Miller area of Gary to Portage, Ogden Dunes, Beverly Shores and Michigan City.

“Smoke from the National Lakeshore controlled burn blanketed the city,” according to one MCFD report. The “numerous calls of visible smoke” started about 2:20 p.m., but were “cleared after realizing it was from the controlled burn.”

Over the next hour or so, calls continued to come in about visible smoke, especially from the area around north Washington and Wabash streets, according to another MCFD report.

And about 2:45 p.m., a call was received from the Aperion Care Arbors Senior Living facility at 1101 E. Coolspring Ave. about the “smell of smoke” and a fire alarm going off.

MCFD responded to the call and found that several windows had been opened around the facility and “the wind was pushing the smoke” from the prescribed burn across the city, a report said.

All the windows were closed at the Arbors and the fire alarms reset before fire personnel cleared the scene.

Adding to the smoke in the area was a large brush fire at the La Porte County Electronic Recycling facility at 1027 Hitchcock St., according to the fire department, which responded to the scene at about 2:50 p.m.

Firefighters discovered the employees of the facility had “started a fire in a burn barrel to keep warm” and a nearby pile of wood caught on fire, according to another MCFD report.

High-pressure foam was used to extinguish the blaze and the scene was cleared at about 5 p.m.

Prescribed fires are part of the NPS and Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ long-term strategy for restoration of the national and state parks’ ecosystem, used to replace natural wildfires that once controlled growth of some species.

The fires are also used to reduce hazardous fuel that could spark an uncontrolled wildfire, according to NPS.

—From staff reports

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