It's not often you see a firefighter start a fire on purpose. But that's what took place for one of the first times in recent years in Livonia last week.
A controlled burn took place last Thursday on city property north of Glendale between Merriman and Farmington, a measure the city took to combat the creeping of the invasive species phragmites.
The measure, Department of Public Works director Don Rohraff said, is something he cannot remember the city doing anytime in recent memory. The burn took place after recommendations from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
"It's a very, very invasive species," he said of phragmites. "That was one of the recommended ways to try to get rid of it."
Phragmites, a marshland grass that can grow up to 15 feet in height, has some history in Michigan though some invasive species of the plant have been introduced in Michigan in recent years. Several communities work to limit the spreading of phragmites across the state by various means, including controlled burns.
Rohraff said eliminating that stretch of phragmites in that part of the city was important, as that part of Livonia is a former dump. The city's fear, Rohraff said, was that the phragmites' roots would crack the clay shield capping the garbage buried beneath the ground.
It took the city about a month of planning to successfully complete the burn, Rohraff said, a process that took several steps to complete.
"There's a lot that goes into it. The wind's got to be less than 3-4 miles per hour," he said. "We've been trying to target this for about a month."
Thursday's burn was the only one planned in the city this year, Rohraff said, though another could come sometime in 2018.