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Record Dry May | Fire Season Ramping Up

B.C. fires come to life, here's why season will be 'severe'

Tyler Hamilton

Thursday, May 31, 2018, 6:59 PM - Well as we enter June, we have to look back at an incredibly dry May across British Columbia. Has the record snowpack suppressed the early forest fire season? Find out more, here.

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  • Vancouver (YVR) recorded the driest May on record, at just a paltry 1.9 mm of precipitation for the ENTIRE month (normal 65 mm)
  • Kamloops also recorded a significant precipitation deficit, and the 2nd driest May on record with a meager 2.4 mm (normal 27.3 mm)
  • Through May, approximately 34,000 hectares of land has been charred in B.C. by fire, already surpassing the season totals from 2007, 2008, 2011, 2013

So, just how dry has it been? 

Looking back at Vancouver, it's been extremely dry, with most of the precipitation falling on just a few days with light shower activity, and capping off the month with a formidable streak: eleven straight rain-free days are quite rare for May. An average temperature that pushed over 19°C is also more common for a June high temperature, and is warmer than what is typical in September. 

Here, you'll be able to see a small sampling of some abnormally dry cities in the Interior is well, which kept some of the flooding events from becoming particularly catastrophic:

This dry weather has naturally had a response on of the forest fire activity recorded in B.C., with the largest fire burning over 22,000 hectares, which is quite the large fire for May. What's more unusual is some entire forest fire seasons have seen smaller areas burned than this ONE particular fire! 

2007, 2008, 2011, and 2013 all have smaller burned areas than our current forest fire season, but a gentle reminder – nearly 60% of all forest fires are caused by lightning, but that leaves over 40% human caused. 

In a fire season that's expected to be relatively severe, we need all the help we can get from individuals, while also hoping for minimal convection and thunderstorm activity. 2017 featured a lot of dry lightning in the Caribou, where the largest fire clocked in at over half a million hectares, or the equivalent of 1300 Stanley Parks...

A better way to visualize the total area burned is through superimposing the total burned area of previous years across the Lower Mainland – to really show how high the year-to-year variability is...

That little green box in the bottom left corner, that's the least active fire season over the past decade, but it wouldn't be surprising if this year challenged a fire season like 2014, where over 300,000 hectares burned. 


  • Active storm track into North and Central Coast of B.C., but the rain-shadow effect is in full swing across Vancouver and Victoria, limiting precipitation amounts
  • Interior is looking dry as well, but there's enhanced precipitation forecast for the Columbia and Rocky Mountain Range


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