Billy Barker Days Festival cancelled due to wildfires

Billy Barker Days is officially cancelled due to the forest fire situation. Council requested organizers of the 44th annual family festival cancel the event out of respect for residents fleeing the flames and losing their homes. The decision came down Monday night. The rationale for this cancellation is as follows:

1. Travel is extremely limited throughout the Cariboo, with Highway 97 South closed. New road closures may occur due to the emergent fire situation, as such the EOC is recommending that any unnecessary traffic be minimized on all highways in the area.

2. The prevailing smoky conditions in the area can change rapidly, during the actual event the conditions could deteriorate. The long range forecast calls for predominantly more hot weather. This can cause medical issues for some people.

3. The RCMP are fully engaged in evacuation and traffic control (roadblocks) throughout the North Cariboo. Half of their crew is tied up on emergency issues. If Billy Barker Days were to proceed, it would be without RCMP support.

4. The Fire Department has sent a crew and a Fire Engine to assist 100 Mile House, so their ability to respond to local calls for service is limited. Our crew in 100 Mile is committed until at least Friday, July 14th and may be asked to extend their stay.

5. Currently, G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital is working over capacity due to receiving patients from other hospitals. Billy Barker Days always represents an increased work load, when their resources are already stretched.

6. While the City is not currently taking in evacuees from out of the area (with a few exceptions), this could change depending upon the needs which arise in the next several days, such as from the Green Mountain fire, fires on West Fraser road, or Nazko fires. We need to keep facilities available should the fire situation change and local support be required.

7. The Alex Fraser Park venue is already housing a number of evacuees, both people and animals. They may need even more capacity for this in the near future.

“The City of Quesnel fully supports the Billy Barker Days’ Society’s decision to cancel this years’ event,” Mayor Bob Simpson said.

“This is the right decision during this uncertain time and, our focus needs to be with those affected and those fighting tirelessly to assist and mitigate the ongoing emergent nature of the wildfire situation throughout the Cariboo.”

“The Quesnel Downtown Association feels that proceeding with the Billy Barker Days Festival would put locals, visitors, and vendors in an unsafe situation and have cancelled their Gold Dust Mall event,” Billy Barker Days president Maureen Murray said.