Shambhala dodges evacuation alert

Festival director Jimmy Bundschuh expresses confidence in evacuation plan

A 75-hectare wildfire that’s burning about 20 kilometres southwest of Salmo and south of the Salmo River has prompted the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) to issue an evacuation alert for the McCormick Creek area.

This fire started near McCormick Creek, east of Pend D’Oreille River, on Tuesday evening. It is burning in steep terrain close to power lines and is exhibiting aggressive fire behaviour.

Due to potential safety risks, ground crews were relocated to safer ground, but they continue to work on this fire, near the Nelway border crossing. Smoke may also be visible from Highway 6 leading to Nelway.

Twenty BC Wildfire Service personnel were fighting this fire with the aid of four helicopters, airtankers and heavy equipment.

Meanwhile, the Village of Salmo has established a satellite Level 1 Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) as a precautionary measure to monitor, collaborate and communicate with emergency management stakeholders related to the fire.

As a precautionary measure, the RDCK issued an evacuation alert on Wednesday. For more information about this alert, people should call 250 352-7701 or visit the district’s website at www.rdck.ca.

“At this time visibility is limited which is preventing any detailed assessment of the fire, but BC Wildfire has confirmed that it still remains on the south side of the Salmo River,” reads the RDCK press release.

“Although there are only 23 residential properties on evacuation alert, the RDCK is aware that the Shambhala festival could be threatened by a further expansion of this fire … The RDCK is working with festival organizers and the RCMP in the event that an evacuation becomes necessary.”

Shambhala Music Festival director Jimmy Bundschuh feels confident his staff could quickly and efficiently evacuate their property if it becomes necessary — the way he sees it, they’ve practiced a one-day mass exit 19 times before.

“It’s no different than a regular exit, which we do every year. We’re extremely good at it and extremely prepared,” Bundschuh told the Nelson Star on Thursday morning.

The 20th annual festival, which hosts upwards of 15,000 people on the Salmo River Ranch every year, was already well underway when government officials, wildfire professionals and Shambhala staff gathered for a meeting on Thursday morning. And though a wildfire was burning approximately ten kilometres away, Bundschuh was feeling optimistic.

“I’d say we’re better off than a regular community because we have so many resources here. We have 2,500 workers on site, we have firefighters — we’re really prepared.”

With files from Nelson Star