A Shambhala crew in 2016.  Photo: Ricardo Hubbs

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

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

A vehicle rolled over off of the Highway 3 off ramp into the Home Hardware parking lot Jan. 21, 2021. Photo: Betsy Kline
Driver sent to hospital after vehicle roll over in Castlegar

Accident happened Thursday around 4:30 p.m.

Interior Health has set up a COVID-19 testing site in Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
No new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in Castlegar for Jan. 10-16

The latest localized BCDCD COVID-19 numbers

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

Long-term care staff and physicians from the priority group received their first dose of Moderna vaccine on Friday, Jan. 15, including Dr. Corrine Knox. Photo: Submitted
Moderna vaccine arrives in Castlegar

Vaccine rollout began in West Kootenay with long term care residents and staff the first recipients

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital surgical unit

Despite 6 South being a surgical unit, RIH said surgeries are continuing at the hospital

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Volunteer firefighters from Grand Forks Fire/Rescue head towards the scene of fatal car crash near Gibbs Creek Road, below Highway 3, Thursday evening, Jan. 21. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Motorist dies in Highway 3 crash west of Grand Forks

City first responders were called to the scene Thursday evening, Jan. 21

Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram could be playing for Colorado when the NHL resumes play. (Rik Fedyck/file)
Cranbrook product Bowen Byram makes NHL debut with Avalanche

Highly touted prospect marks first pro game following World Junior tournament in Alberta

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

Most Read