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Crews save several homes overnight following flare ups in the Dunes West Wildfire perimeter

Fire crews responded to several flareups in the Dunes West Wildfire perimeter overnight Wednesday, and were able to save several homes according to the latest update from the Grande Prairie Regional Emergency Partnership. Drones also were used overnight to identify hotspots, which crews were able to put out. According to officials crews will spend Thursday focusing on strengthening the fire guards along the perimeter, while also continuing to respond to and deal with flare-ups that arise throughout the day. As of 10:30 a.m. Thursday the Dunes West wildfire is still burning out of control, and is approximately 1,581 hectares in size.

GPREP is also allowing some residents to temporarily re-enter the evacuation area. However, those who enter need to have a re-entry permit to be allowed access. According to GPREP “Patrols are being conducted within the barricaded areas.”

As of Thursday 80 military personnel are on site “with a focus on home protection.” The military support is in addition to crews from across the province who have also come to help with the wildfire situation. Wednesday afternoon GPREP released an update video, where County of Grande Prairie Reeve Bob Marshall said this support has given local crews some relief.

“They were working there tirelessly on the weekend, so when that support showed up on Monday, it made a huge benefit to give our guys a break,” Marshall said.

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Utility outages for those who are outside of the evacuation zone is also being addressed Thursday, as crews are said to be in the area to complete repairs on gas lines, with power having already been restored to most of the area.

Since putting out the request Monday night, approximately 2,500 acres of farmland has been disced and seeded for an additional fire barrier. During the Wednesday afternoon video update Incident Command Officer Darryl Martin explained this step is a win-win for the farmers and the crews battling the fire.

“The farmer’s A) wanted to be out farming, discing and it is also a great fire break for us,” Martin said. “So wherever possible in those exclusion zones, we are trying to let them back in to go and be able to do that to provide a fire break so we can reduce those grass fibre’s, and allows us to help stop the movement of the fire.”

Tuesday night, the evacuation order for residents who live from Township Road 712 to 710, between Range Road 65 and 74 was downgraded to an alert allowing them to return home. However, they are being advised to stay prepared to evacuate with 30 minutes notice. The evacuation order for the area of Township Road 710 south to the river, between range Road 62 and 75 remains in place.

On Wednesday Marshall compared the fire to a sleeping giant who roared its head to life on the weekend.

“Right now with the weather conditions we have had [gave crews] a chance to get things kind of contained somewhat, and get ahead of some things. But it is a sleeping giant, if the weather conditions change, then we could be back into a similar situation we were in on the weekend.”

Temperatures in the coming days are forecasted to range between 25 to 30 degrees.

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