Two local artists who are booked to play a music festival in the mountains near Whistler this month have yet to hear from festival organizers about the nearby wildfire threat or cloud of smoke that is blanketing the region.
Thousands of people are heading to the Pemberton Music Festival next weekend to watch performances by Kendrick Lamar, Tiesto, the Black Keys and other bands. About 30,000 music fans are expected to flow into the area over four days and gather on 300 acres of land.
As a wildfire smoke advisory continued in Whistler and Pemberton on Wednesday – conditions that have already caused about a dozen people to be treated for sore throats or shortness of breath – the festival's organizers said in a statement that the event would go on as planned. They did not respond to requests for an interview.
Ivan Decker, a Canadian stand-up comedian, said he knew the event was still on from what he read in newspapers. "Nobody has said anything to me personally about the fires [or smoke advisory]," he said.
Danielle Sweeney, whose band, Lovecoast, won the chance to play at Pemberton through a local radio contest, said she only heard cancellation rumours through friends who are volunteering on the grounds. "We haven't heard anything. … We don't even know what time we're playing yet. All we know is that we're playing on Thursday," she said.
Ms. Sweeney lives south of Pemberton in the neighbouring municipality of Squamish, where she said smoke continued to block out a view of the mountains Wednesday.
"It's pretty crazy still – I can't see the mountains, which is really rare."
Festival and local officials decided it wasn't bad enough to cancel the event, which runs July 16-19.
"Fire activity in the South Coastal region has led to smoke in the Pemberton Valley and the surrounding areas. While air quality is a concern, the current wildfire situation does not warrant cancellation of the festival," organizers said in a joint news release with the Village of Pemberton and the Lil'wat First Nation.
As a performer, Ms. Sweeney said playing her set during a smoke advisory is daunting.
"The smoke is a little scary [because] when you're playing, you're getting really winded and they're saying don't do physical exercise outside."
The smoke is coming from the Elaho and Boulder Creek fires west and northwest of Pemberton, which are still spreading at a moderate rate, said Melissa Klassen, a fire information officer with the BC Wildfire Service.
"That could change at any time," she said. "We're in extreme conditions right now, and if there's a fire that starts in these kinds of conditions, it's going to be a volatile fire and it's going to be hard to suppress."
Paul Martiquet, a medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health in the Pemberton area, said he's been telling people with severe respiratory conditions to avoid strenuous exercise and being outdoors. He said people attending the festival should keep an eye on the weather and air-quality conditions.
"If they're severe asthmatics, it's probably not a good idea to go," Dr. Martiquet said.
For those who are in otherwise good health, he said people should listen to their bodies, stay hydrated and avoid strenuous activity like vigorous dancing.
"If you're dancing frenetically in poor air quality, it's not recommended," he said.
Ms. Sweeney said she's more concerned about festival-goers behaving irresponsibly with cigarette butts than the health effects of lingering wildfire smoke.
"I'm from here. This is my home and it's already burning down, so it's already pretty daunting."