Elliott Brood was the first act to perform after Wapiti Music Festival reopened on Saturday evening following a severe thunderstorm, which brought rain and hail to the festival grounds in Fernie. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

Lightning sparks fires, closes Fernie music festival

Heavy rain, hail and lightning temporarily shuts down Wapiti Music Festival on Saturday.

Lightning strikes have sparked a number of new fires across the Elk Valley and temporarily closed a music festival.

On Saturday, Environment Canada issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the region, warning of strong wind gusts, large hail and heavy rain.

The storm temporarily shut down Wapiti Music Festival at Annex Park in Fernie.

About 5 p.m., organizers cut power to the site and advised festival-goers to take cover from the storm, which brought thunder, heavy rain and hail to the festivals grounds.

A lightning strike also sparked a fire near Fernie Alpine Resort, which was visible from Annex Park.

“Due to the lighting, for the safety of everyone. The power has been shut and we are advising everyone to take cover,” wrote Wapiti organizers on Facebook.

The event resumed about 1.5 hours later after the storm had passed, however, Winnipeg band Yes We Mystic was forced to cancel their set.

The latest fire map from BC Wildfire Service shows there are seven active fires across the region, including the Coal Creek Road fire 12km east of Fernie.

Lightning strikes have been blamed for four fires at Lizard Range, Lynch Creek and Bow River Forest Service Rd, west of Elkford.

The biggest is the Bow River FSR fire, which was discovered on Saturday and is 170ha in size.

The cause of another fire in Galloway has not yet been determined.

About 65km southeast of Fernie, a large wildfire continues to burn in the Flathead area.

On Saturday afternoon, the Sage Creek fire was 1445ha in size and being managed using a combination of suppression techniques and monitoring to steer and contain it within the perimeter.

Visit BC Wildfire Service to view the fire map.


The latest fire map from BC Wildfire Service on Sunday morning.

Revellers start to return to Wapiti Music Festival after a storm on Saturday. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

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