GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Wildfires burned more than 2,300 acres in Michigan in 2021, the state Department of Natural Resources says.

Firefighters battled 274 fires last year, the highest number reported by the department since 2018. The DNR battled 203 fires and 960 acres burned in 2020.

The annual fire report also said 574 structures were threatened by wildfires in 2021. All but 20 outbuildings were saved.

DNR officials say a dry spring was partly to blame, with 76 wildfires reported in March and 72 in April. A warmer and drier summer also caused drought conditions across parts of the state, which leads to more wildfires.

DNR data also shows 2022 is also shaping up to be a big year for wildfires. As of June 3, DNR crews have already battled 143 wildfires and more than 2,900 acres have already been burned.

The Brittle Fire burned more than 5,600 acres inside the Huron-Manistee National Forest in April 2021. (Courtesy National Forest Service)

The 2021 numbers do not factor in the Brittle Fire in Iosco County, which burned 5,600 acres in the Huron-Manistee National Forest. While the Michigan DNR helped respond to the fire, federal agencies had the lead.

Outside of the Brittle Fire, two of the largest wildfires of 2021 were in the northern Lower peninsula. The Colfax Fire in Wexford County burned 378 acres and the Miller Drop Zone Fire in Crawford County burned 130 acres.

According to the DNR, almost all of the wildfires were caused by humans. Data shows 34% were sparked by people burning debris or trash, compared to 10% caused by campfires and 3% sparked by lightning. Of the 274 wildfires, DNR officials could not determine an exact cause for 24% of them.

The Horne Fire — which burned an estimated 335 acres in Isle Royale National Park — was one of the few caused by a lightning strike.

The DNR’s firefighters also conducted 57 prescribed burns, cleaning out more than 5,000 acres of land. Most of the burns were used to kill invasive species and to help other wildlife by making space for a new, young forest habitat. Prescribed or controlled burns are also used to prevent potential wildfires by reducing the amount of fuel in high-risk areas.