An emergency crew at the Shambhala Festival. Photo: Ricardo Hubbs, courtesy of the Shambhala Festival

2017’s top stories No. 5: Wildfire causes Shambhala evacuation alert

A fire was within nine kilometres of the annual music festival

A week in advance of 2017’s Shambhala Music Festival (Aug. 9 to 14), some people started wondering what would happen to the instant temporary town of 17,000 people in the event of a wildfire.

Festival organizers said it would not be harder than evacuating a regular town, because they were ready with trained personnel, firefighting equipment and an evacuation plan.

“If another community were to get evacuated, they would be better off to come here,” said Chris Armstrong, the festival’s head of public safety.

People could easily walk out if necessary, he said. Others wondered what those thousands of people would do once they got to the highway on foot.

On Aug. 10 an evacuation alert was issued for residents in and around Nelway, near the McCormick Creek wildfire, 12 kilometres away from the festival. Two days later those same residents were ordered to leave their homes, and an alert was issued for the festival, advising them to be ready to leave on a moment’s notice.

“The fire is now an estimated 250 hectares in size and is behaving unpredictably,” the B.C. Wildfire Service reported.

Related:

Evacuating Shambhala would be easier than a regular community, director says

Shambhala dodges evacuation alert

Emergency management staff said they were worried about the single road access to the festival.

By Saturday (the second last day of the festival) the McCormick Creek fire had grown to 350 hectares and had moved to nine km from the festival. Fire officials said they were not just worried about the McCormick Creek fire: the festival grounds and surrounding area were under extreme fire risk of new fires.

Leading up to and during the final Shambhala weekend there were lengthy, and reportedly tense, meetings between the festival organizers, the Regional District of Central Kootenays’ emergency management people, the B.C. Wildfire Service, and the RCMP.

As a result, the festival cancelled its Sunday music schedule. They announced that festival goers would leave the grounds on Sunday rather than Monday as they otherwise would have. This appeared to be a compromise to avoid the issuance of an evacuation order.

On Saturday night it rained a little, and temperatures cooled. After some people had left on Sunday morning, and while others were streaming off the grounds, the organizers changed their minds and said the festival would continue through Sunday. Attendees with a wristband were allowed back in.

Emergency personnel stated that they disagreed with the decision.

“It’s entirely up to those guys. It’s a private function and they’ve made their own decision due to their own risk assessment,” said regional fire chief Andrew Bellerby.

Related:

Evacuation alert issued for Nelway, alert issued for Shambhala Festival

Emergency personnel disagree with decision to re-open Shambhala

Just Posted

Watch art come to life at ArtWalk

The second art showcase opens July 27 in Nelson

City councillor Robin Cherbo announces he’s running for re-election

Cherbo will be among the nominees for the Oct. 20 municipal election

Kootenay town was the hot spot in all of Canada on Monday

The temperature hit 38.8 C at the Warfield weather station on July 16, setting a new daily record

Kaslo native promotes science and reason on a global stage

Pangburn Philosophy is part show business, part intellectual journey

VIDEO: Trudeau shuffles familiar faces, adds new ones to expanded cabinet

Justin Trudeau shuffles his front bench Wednesday to install the roster of ministers that will be entrusted with leading the Liberal team into next year’s election.

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

Grizzly bear jumps in river, chases B.C. kayaker

The bear got a bit too close for comfort along the Elaho River near Squamish

Parks Canada looks to shine light on cloudy future for historic sites

A plan is in place to produce 10-year plans designed to turn around sagging attendance figures

B.C. poet shines a bright light on struggle with homelessness

Book launch for John La Greca’s Homeless Memorial is at Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo July 21.

Ontario police say attack on Muslim man was motivated by hate

Two men, aged 27 and 19, have been charged with assault in the incident

Canadian Tire delivers toys to ease kids’ street play pain in B.C. neighbourhood

It’s like Christmas for 11 kids who are supposed to be confined to their yards by strata bylaw

City orders largest Kinder Morgan protest camp to leave

Residents of Camp Cloud near the Trans Mountain work site have 72 hours to leave

Cougar shot near B.C. marina

Police were called to complaints of a cougar climbing through boats and sheds at the Nanaimo Yacht Club

Most Read