Saugatuck Township Fire District Chief Janik Delays Approval Of Marsh-Burn Plan
The local fire chief says he finds the company seeking permission to conduct another controlled burning at the Pottawatomie Marsh - PlantWise Restoration of Ann Arbor - to be professional and competent, but he will not give his stamp of approval until officials provide a satisfactory incident action plan.
At last Wednesday ‘s township board meeting, Saugatuck Township Fire District Chief Greg Janik said the last Pottawatomie Marsh-prescribed burning of some 130 acres “created a lot of smoke issues” for residents of the area.
Janik told Observer Newspapers there was also an issue of amber and ash landing on rooftops, particularly in the neighborhood of Riverside Road and 62nd Street area, just east of the outskirts of the City of Douglas.
Although the controlled burn in 2012 was approved by the fire
department, the burn produced smoke visible for many miles, creating a public nuisance and inundating the fire department with many 911 emergency calls, according to local fire reports and witnesses to the incident.
Located north of where the I-196 bridge crosses the Kalamazoo River, the 1,400-acre marsh is a privately-owned wildlife refuge and hunting preserve.
The Pottawatomie Gun Club uses the marsh, one of the largest natural marsh ecosystems in West Michigan, for various outdoor activities such as duck hunting.
The prescribed burning is meant to kill invasive plants and help native plants retake the area with the help of sunlight penetrating the ground.
“I felt (PlantWise’s) burn plan was weak. It did not contain a communication plan, there was no media plan (public notice) and no signage plan,” said Janik, adding he needed a much-improved plan.
“This is tough because it is private property. I wasn’t sure my board wanted me work on this (reviewing the burn plan)…I already have 25 hours into this. Why? For a private enterprise.” Janik added, “It’s private, I actually think they should be charged for it (incident action plan).”
He said PlantWise is proposing to burn 615 acres this year. The company conducts a lot of controlled burning throughout the state of Michigan. It is an activity that needs approval by the local fire department as well as the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.