Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wildfires blaze through our U.P. Vacation

As we drove into Newberry, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, late Friday evening, smoke was covering the roads and the surrounding woods we could see for miles and miles and miles. Were we, perhaps, like other families, headed to a hotel because we had been evacuated from our home due to the raging wildfires that were spreading across the top mitten? Nope. We were venturing there on vacation!
In spite of the crowd of Wisconsin firefighters and eventually the National Guard that was checked into our hotel over the course of the weekend, we surprisingly weren't finding the inn to be overcrowded or busy at all. After speaking with fire officials as well as the Red Cross Disaster Relief, we felt confident about (cautiously) continuing with most of our vacation plans--although, our anticipated tour of Tahquamenon Falls would have to wait until our next trip up, as the park was closed due to the emergency and the uncertainty of where the winds would carry the fire before it was contained. According to the Associated Press, State officials say 115 structures, including homes and a motel, were destroyed. The fire, started by lightening strike, spread 21,450 acres.
We saw some of the aftermath of devastated, barren trees on our way up to Lake Superior. "Those trees that caught on fire look so sad, mom" observed my daughter. They truly did. Most of the damaged trees from where we were directly at were from past fires, which also taught the kids the lasting effects of the damage. Parts of the devastation even reminded us of scenes from Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, which we've done recent studies in our homeschool around (Lorax Learning).
Vintage Smokey the Bear billboards peppered along the main roads were slotted "Extreme". My kids didn't even know who Smokey the Bear was, so it made for an excellent learning leap for us to discuss Forest Fires in general, while also incorporating a safe, first-hand memory. Along with the firefighters, National Guard soldiers and American Red Cross, there were helicopters flying overhead with tanks of water.
By the time we were leaving, Smokey was back down to moderate levels, as much of the fire had been contained over Saturday night and into Sunday. We made sure to purchase a Sunday newspaper to keep and thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to include current events into our home education. My daughter is working on her report today, and she gets to include some first-hand source of the accounts in her "who, what, where, why and how."

Current Events Report Worksheet

Current Event Form

Leave it to us to vacation to a spot of national disaster! While we certainly didn't plan it that way, and we did keep a relatively safe distance (approximately 14-18 miles) from the center of danger, it will surely be a memory of travel we won't soon forget. In fact, you could even say, it will be burned in our memory banks forever!

CNN: "Wildfire in Michigan's Upper Peninsula..."

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