Grayling — Authorities battled a massive blaze Thursday in Crawford County in northern Michigan that spread across more than 120 acres and prompted evacuations.

The fire was reported near Stephan Bridge and Shaw Park roads at about 5:20 p.m. after a passerby spotted flames spreading in a grassy field, said Allen Ballard, the public information for the Crawford County Emergency Management Office. Authorities said the fire, which burned an area about two-tenths of a mile wide and a mile long, was contained before 9 p.m.

Kerry Wieber, public information officer with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ incident management team, said aircraft spotted the flames and directed fire crews to the site. About a dozen units responded to fight the blaze.

Firefighters arrived to find the fire reaching the nearby jack pines and sought backup from other county agencies, Ballard said.

As the fire units and DNR officials with the county and Roscommon worked to contain the blaze, residents from 75 homes in the area were evacuated, Ballard said.

The U.S. Forest Service had planes dropping water, and the fire was contained, but not extinguished, by 8:45 p.m., and is not likely to spread, Wieber said.

“The fire was contained due to quick response,” Ballard said, adding officials were expected to remain on the scene for two to three days to check hot spots. “They are going to be making sure the fire does not go anywhere.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation, and “we are still asking people to stay away from the area as much as possible,” Ballard said.

There were no injuries reported Thursday, and only an outbuilding was damaged, he said.

“Everything appears to be minimal, which is outstanding,” Wieber said.

Evacuees were housed at the Grayling High School gym during the response by county request, said Justin Gluesing, the superintendent for Crawford AuSable School District. “At approximately 9 p.m., we were informed that evacuees were able to return home and we shut down operations.”

The American Red Cross was helping arrange shelter for two families that reported prior medical issues exacerbated by the smoke, Ballard said.

John L. Russell is a photojournalist and writer from Traverse City.

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