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Crews continue battling wildfires around region

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Though a little rain last night provided a little relief, crews continue to battle wildfires all across the Cape Fear region.

The Juniper Road Fire in the Holly Shelter Game Land continues to rage despite rain last evening.

Spokeswoman Diane Steltz says the fire has already burned more than 21,000 acres since lightning sparked it late Saturday night. Latest estimates say the fire is only 10 percent contained.

Less than an inch of rain last night did help, but that small amount is far from enough to put an end to this fire. While any rain is helpful, thunderstorms also bring the threat of sparking new fires from lightning strikes. Crews continue to monitor if lightning last night may have started any new fires.

For now, shelters in Pender and Onslow Counties are closed, because no one used them. Voluntary evacuations are still in effect, and shelters will reopen if needed.

Crews also continue to battle a large fire in Bladen County with little help from spotty rainfall. They are also trying to be proactive in preventing more fires in the future.

Chris Meggs, the public information officer on the Bladen County fire, says "every little drop of rain helps." But because of a lack of consistent rainfall, officials are planning a controlled "burn out" operation. The burn out is estimated to add approximately 2,500 acres to the 1,300 that has already burned. Meggs says the goal is to eliminate the heat pockets and hopefully reduce flame links that can create fast and dangerous fires from forming.

Thanks to the sand ridges that have been created, crews hope this operation will prevent the fires from approaching residential areas.

Since Monday, Columbus County has experienced several fires likely caused by lightning strikes. Due to the fires in surrounding areas, Columbus County says it is short on resources.

In an attempt to reduce the need for these resources, the county has adopted a proactive approach. In addition to a countywide burning ban, there have also been daily morning and afternoon flights to monitor potential fires.

Despite the lack of rainfall, the fires have been contained to a total of about 75 acres.

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