Hunting area affected by Nov. 17-20 wildfire has been reopened
GRAFTON, IL – Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) officials are thanking local and regional firefighters, other emergency personnel and IDNR staff for assisting with the Nov. 17-20 wildfire that affected nearly 1,500 acres of timber at Pere Marquette State Park.
No injuries were reported and no structures were damaged as a result of the fire. After evaluation, the heavily-wooded hunting area affected by the fire has been reopened to the public.
“All of us at the Illinois DNR were impressed by the quick response and outstanding work of firefighters from more than a half-dozen local and regional departments and fire protection districts that worked throughout the weekend to contain and bring under control the wind-blown fire,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. “In addition, the operation was a success thanks to the exemplary efforts of IDNR Land Management staff, Conservation Police, the State Fire Marshall, U.S. and state Forestry and Natural Heritage staff, with assistance from Illinois State Police and local sheriff’s police, local and state emergency management personnel, IDOT, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and local citizens and neighbors who offered help.”
The wildfire was first reported in timber at the easternmost section of Pere Marquette State Park in Jersey County on Nov. 17. The fire was brought under control for a time on Nov. 18, but rekindled and spread due to high winds. Timely rain showers helped douse the fire on Nov. 20.
The area of the 8,000-acre Pere Marquette State Park affected by the fire included approximately 1,500 acres of the hunting unit bounded by Ill. Rt. 100 on the south, Rowling Ridge Road on the east, Power Line Road on the north, and Graham Hollow Road on the west.
“The timber in the fire area was not completely destroyed,” said Pere Marquette Site Supt. Chris Hespen. “In fact the fire will have some long-term benefit to the site in terms of burning away invasive and exotic plants and rejuvenating native hardwood trees.”
“Fire can help control less fire-tolerant tree species, plants and leaf litter, which can allow greater sunlight for germination and growth of young oaks and hickories, the kinds of trees that are valued in Illinois,” said IDNR Natural Heritage District Biologist Mark Phipps. “If fire can help restore the woodland ground layer with plants, seeds, flowers, and greenery on which wildlife can thrive, that can be good for deer and wild turkey, and mushroom hunters may see benefits, as well.”
The affected hunting area at the park along with the rest of the site, including the campground, Visitor Center, and Pere Marquette Lodge and Conference Center are open to the public.
The cause of the Pere Marquette State Park wildfire is still under investigation.