Shambhala festival-goers told to leave early over wildfire risk
Published Saturday, August 12, 2017 5:52PM PDT
Last Updated Monday, August 14, 2017 7:52AM PDT
People at the Shambhala Music Festival are being told to pack their bags and enjoy their last night of music before evacuating the festival grounds a day early because of a nearby wildfire.
Festival organizers and wildfire officials announced the festival will be ending one day earlier than scheduled due to wildfire risk to allow the nearly 19,000 attendees to get out safely.
"With the amount of people in there we felt it's not worth taking that risk with all those people's lives," said Andrew Bellarby, regional fire chief for the Central Kootenays.
The 500-acre Salmo River Ranch where the festival is held every year only has one road accessing it—which would have made exit challenging in an emergency evacuation.
Festival organizers did built a temporary footbridge over the Salmo River to provide a second way out, but decided it would be safer to have everyone leave Sunday morning instead of wait for a potentially surprising evacuation notice.
Inland ferries will be operating 24-hour service in case festival-goers do need to leave in the middle of the night.
Tomas Serrano came all the way from San Diego for the festival. He says he's been keeping track of the evacuation orders and alerts online. It's unfortunate Shambhala is getting cut short, he says, but safety comes first.
"We're just going to pack up everything tonight towards sundown so that we're kind of prepared. And if we have to leave early then we will," he said.
According to organizers, the financial impact of ending the 20-year strong festival a day early will be huge.
They estimate they'll lose about $500,000 in revenue and 70 craft vendors and 17 food vendors will take hits too.
The threat is due to the McCormick Creek wildfire burning 9 kilometres away from the festival grounds.
On Saturday morning, parts of the fire jumped the Salmo River, prompting an evacuation alert for the festival.
By later in the afternoon, fire officials said crews had successfully extinguished the fires that had crossed the river, so that the wildfire remains on the south side of the Salmo River. Crews are now focusing on the eastern flank of the fire, where it's showing the most growth.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Sarah MacDonald.