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Shambhala Music Festival on evacuation alert due to growing wildfire

Vancouver Sun logo Vancouver Sun 2017-08-12 Gemma Karstens-Smith
081217-no_object-228903176-0804_whats_on_shambhala-W.jpg:   © HANDOUT  

 

Organizers of a popular electronic music festival in Salmo are cutting short their event after a wildfire jumped a nearby river, prompting an evacuation alert.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay issued the alert Saturday morning after the B.C. Wildfire Service reported the McCormick Creek wildfire had jumped the Salmo River and was heading toward the Shambhala Music Festival

Festival organizers said in a news release that planned events would continue through the end of the day Saturday, but they asked people attending the festival to have their vehicles packed in case they have to leave earlier and designate a driver, and be ready to leave early on Sunday. 

The regional district is asking people leaving the fair to immediately leave the region for their own safety.

A footbridge has been installed over the Salmo River to provide another way for people to leave if conditions change.

Shambhala, which drew more than 15,000 festival-goers last year, began Friday.

The B.C. Wildfire said Saturday morning that the McCormick Creek fire was 2.5 square kilometres in size, and 27 firefighters, four helicopters and six pieces of heavy equipment were being used to fight the flames.

 

Getting so many people out of the area does present “some elevated concern,” said Chris Duffy with Emergency Management B.C., but staff from the department have been helping festival organizers develop contingency plans.

Fire information officer Ryan Turcott said the McCormick Creek fire was burning about nine kilometres away from the festival site Saturday morning.

Turcott said the fire was one of 140 fires burning across the province Saturday and about 3,900 were working to control the flames.

More than 6,400 people remain displaced from their homes by the flames and RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Annie Linteau made another plea Saturday for people to leave areas where evacuations have been ordered.

“When an order is issued, it’s done in consultation with numerous stakeholders and is done only when there is a significant and real danger to people’s lives,” she said in a conference call.

“By choosing to remain in an evacuated area, you’re putting yourself at risk and increasing the danger to first responders in the area and making the job of first responders more difficult.”

 

Meanwhile, the evacuation alert for the nearby community of Nelway was also been upgraded to an evacuation order. About 23 homes are affected.

 

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