B.C. wildfire forces music festival to wrap up early

Click to play video: 'Growing wildfire threatens Shambhala Festival' Growing wildfire threatens Shambhala Festival
Organizers of the Shambhala Music Festival at the Salmo River Ranch are asking guests to pack up early. – Aug 12, 2017

NOTE: A previous version incorrectly stated that Shambhala was under an evacuation order. In fact, it is under an evacuation alert.

SALMO, B.C. – A popular electronic music festival in southern British Columbia is ending early as wildfires burn nearby.

Organizers for the Shambhala Music Festival say there is no threat to the festival or attendees, but they decided to end early after consulting with local government.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay issued an evacuation alert Saturday morning after the BC Wildfire Service reported that flames had crossed the Salmo River and were heading toward Salmo, B.C., where the festival is being held.

An evacuation alert means people need to be ready to leave an area on a moment’s notice.

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WATCH: B.C. wildfire coverage 

Shambhala, which has drawn more than 10,000 festival-goers in years past, began Friday.

Organizers say programming will continue Saturday night and attendees will begin leaving Sunday morning.


Fire information officer Ryan Turcott said the McCormick Creek fire was burning about nine kilometres away from the festival site Saturday morning.

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Twenty-seven firefighters, four helicopters and six pieces of heavy equipment were being used to fight the 2.5-square-kilometre blaze.

Turcott said the fire was one of 140 fires burning across the province Saturday and about 3,900 were working to control the flames.

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More than 6,400 people remain displaced from their homes by the flames and RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Annie Linteau made another plea Saturday for people to leave areas where evacuations have been ordered.

“When an order is issued, it’s done in consultation with numerous stakeholders and is done only when there is a significant and real danger to people’s lives,” she said in a conference call.

“By choosing to remain in an evacuated area, you’re putting yourself at risk and increasing the danger to first-responders in the area and making the job of first-responders more difficult.”

Wildfires have charred more than 6,510 square kilometres across B.C. since April 1, an area Turcott said is more than twice the size of Greater Vancouver.

Smoke from the fires drifted to the West Coast last week, prompting Environment Canada and some regional districts to issue alerts about air quality across much of southern B.C.

Metro Vancouver lifted its air quality advisory Saturday, nearly two weeks after the regional district first warned that fine particulate matter in the air could cause health problems.

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