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Shambhala Music Festival to shut down early as wildfire jumps Salmo River

Last Updated Aug 12, 2017 at 8:26 pm PDT

Approximate location of the Shambhala Music Festival Courtesy Google Maps

All shows scheduled for Sunday night have been cancelled and the festival will close one day early

People are being urged to prepare ahead of tomorrow by packing early and getting a good night's rest

SALMO (NEWS 1130) – The wildfire situation has forced organizers of the Shambhala music festival to shut down one day early.

The decision comes after the area was placed under an alert, following the spread of the McCormick Creek wildfire.

“We’ve been monitoring the fire with BC Wildfire (Service) and we made a visit to the site to see what it was like, just to check on how big the fire was,” explains Regional fire chief Andrew Bellerby with the Regional District of the Central Kootenay.

He says the decision was made to close the festival early after two separate meetings.

“It was a hard decision for the Shambhala festival organizers to take, however, they accepted the emergency management professionals’ decision and this is where we’re at today.”

With an estimated 19,000 people attending this year’s festival, Shambhala founder Jimmy Bundschuh says there are precautions in place to ensure people get out safely.

“We’ve planned for it, and we load vehicles in and as we bring people into the festival we do it preparing to depart them from the festival,” he says, adding emergency routes are protected and free.

“A big part of the exit is getting people’s items into their cars before they drive out –it’s not as simple as jump in your car and leave. We’re trying to get people packed tonight, except for their bedding and tent so they can get a good night’s rest so that tomorrow we can have an easy exit.”

He hopes that giving people the night will also help avoid injuries and accidents.

Closing one day early doesn’t come without its financial impacts either. Bundschuh estimates $500 million in lost revenue, both to the festival as well as vendors.

An evacuation order has been issued for close to 40 properties in the area of Nelway, and officials say the border crossing in that area has also been shut down due to wildfire threat.

The McCormick Creek fire is now approximately 350 hectares in size and is behaving unpredictably. There are close to 30 BC Wildfire Service personnel battling the fire.

Meanwhile, the BC Wildfire Service reports there are 140 wildfires currently burning across BC.

The province has reached out to the federal government for additional assistance, and more Canadian Armed Forces resources will be in place through September. 

“They will have self sufficient camps and they’ll be mainly assisting with the mop up and monitoring stages of wildfires, including air support,” says Fire Information Officer Ryan Turcot. “It is estimated that by the end of this wildfire season, the Canadian Armed Forces will have deployed a total of 650 personnel to BC in support of this year’s firefighting efforts.”

“We’ll begin supporting local and provincial firefighting through the conduct of fireline operations,” explains Lt.-Col. Derek Prohar. 

975 wildfires have burned an estimated 651,000 hectares of land since April 1st –an area close to double the size of Greater Vancouver.