A Shambhala crew in 2016. Photo: Ricardo Hubbs

Organizers preparing for worst as wildfire burns near Shambhala Music Festival

Evacuating 15,000 festival attendees would be easier than evacuating a town: public safety director

A new wildfire in the Kootenay region has Shambhala Music Festival organizers preparing for the possibility of an evacuation.

The McCormick Creek fire broke out Tuesday near Trail, and is burning at an estimated 75 hectares in size, according to the BC Wildfire Service. It’s also about 12 kilometres away from the music festival grounds.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay issued an alert for a few dozen residents Wednesday night.

But evacuating the 15,000 attendees at the Shambhala Music Festival in a wildfire emergency would be much easier than evacuating a regular town, says its public safety director.

“It’s a more well-defined space than a city that is spread out in individual homes where you wouldn’t know if they are home or not,” said Chris Armstrong, who spoke to the Nelson Star ahead of annual event that began Friday.

Shambhala organizers issued a memo Wednesday asking attendees to plan ahead for the possibility of an evacuation becoming a realty.

The RDCK also urged festival goers to maintain a designated driver and means of quick evacuation from the area.

Meanwhile, Armstrong said the festival has 2,500 staff, all of whom are trained in emergency protocols and who are in constant communication with each other.

“Just like in any other city or large organization, you have emergency response plans for all the things you can think of that could possibly happen,” Armstrong said. “For a fire evacuation or any evacuation, we have response plans for that.”

Armstrong said he has 21 years of experience in search and rescue and emergency management.

As wildfires burn across the province due to tinder-dry weather, security is also keeping an eye on people – who may be intoxicated or impaired – and their use of candles and cigarette butts.

“We have 25 trained fire fighters out here, so there is not much that can happen that we can’t put it out on our own before any call gets made. We have a bigger fire system than most small communities, we have our own fire department, trucks, more trained fire personnel than most towns, and we have a 500-acre piece of property and 150 of it is open field.”

Armstrong admitted there are some difficulties with the single-road access, but he pointed out that the festival site is less than a half kilometre from the highway, so people would walk out either on the road or in the mostly ankle-deep river. It would take 24 hours to evacuate everyone with their vehicles, he said.

Once people had walked to the highway, there would be a question of where they would go from there, he said.

“But that is absolutely the remotest possibility, and there would be enough ramp up and warning for that, and arrangements would be made with Emergency Management B.C., they would be there and have a check-in system for them as displaced travellers.”

Armstrong said the Southeast Fire Centre and regional emergency management staff would give warnings and alerts, and once an alert was given, the festival would start preparing. Most of the evacuation protocols, he said, are not to actually evacuate, but to prepare for it.

“It’s no different from any other community,” Armstrong said. “The difference is that we have 2,500 staff to pull it off.”

“If another community were to get evacuated, they would be better off to come here,” he said.

B.C. wildfires 2017

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey council to consider a $150 FOI fee for attendance requests at city facilities

This is expected to come before council during tonight’s council meeting, on Monday July 13.

Heritage rail to remain closed for both July and August

Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society may open Cloverdale Station in September

Delta launches online engagement portal

“Let’s Talk Delta” offers variety of feedback methods including surveys, polls, forums and Q&A boards

Story of ‘A Mother’s Journey to Adoption’ told in book by first-time Surrey author

In the 1990s, Raj Arneja and husband Gurpreet adopted two children in India

Proposed White Rock development a ‘nightmare’ for Elm Street neighbours

Density, traffic, loss of views among chief concerns of residents

B.C. records 62 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths since Friday

Province has just over 200 active cases

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

COVID-19 exposure on Vancouver flight

The Air Canada 8421 flight travelled from Kelowna to Vancouver on July 6

Double homicide investigation leads Vancouver police to Chilliwack

A VPD forensics unit was in Chilliwack Saturday collecting evidence connected to East Van murders

VIDEO: Former Abbotsford resident giving away $1,000

Langley native Alex Johnson creates elaborate treasure hunt to give away cash

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

UPDATE: Abbotsford shooting victim was alleged ‘crime boss,’ according to court documents

Jazzy Sran, 43, was believed to have been smuggling cocaine across the border

Most Read