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Major B.C. music festival preps for evacuation as wildfire burns nearby

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August 12, 2017 - 9:00 PM

SALMO, B.C. - Plans are in place to evacuate thousands of people from a popular electronic music festival in southern British Columbia after a wildfire jumped a river nearby.

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 the Shambhala Music Festival in Salmo, B.C.

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

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

Festival organizers said in an online update Saturday that attendees should make plans in case of a mandatory evacuation, including talking to friends about potentially leaving early and making sure they have a well-rested designated driver.

The update said a footbridge had also been installed over the Salmo River to provide another way for people to leave if conditions change.

Getting so many people out of the area does present "some elevated concern," said Chris Duffy with Emergency Management BC, but staff from the department have been helping festival organizers develop contingency plans.

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

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.

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.

— By Gemma Karstens-Smith in Vancouver

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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