Canada's zombie fires

Friday 7 Jun 2024

In Canada, a surge in zombie fires during winter has significantly impacted the wildfire season. Researchers and fire-fighters are working tirelessly to develop methods to extinguish these persistent fires.

Despite freezing temperatures of -40 degrees Celsius, smoke continued to billow through the snow. Marty Wells, a wolf trapper, and fire crew leader, witnessed plumes of white smoke while driving north of Fort Nelson, British Columbia. He encountered melt holes resembling hot springs and flames licking at the base of snow-covered trees. The ground burned several feet deep in certain areas.

Wells vividly describes the fire's behaviour: "It infiltrates the muskeg, burns it, and then stealthily spreads underground, only to resurface somewhere else."

When the snow melted in early May, these zombie fires reignited
, feeding on dry trees and brush. The smoke plumes north of Fort Nelson escalated into a massive conflagration spanning 700 square kilometres. The town found itself encircled by fire, with another zombie fire burning an even larger area to the east, caused damage to properties and necessitating the evacuation of residents.

Scientists suggest that human-induced climate warming has contributed to the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires, which has led to a rise in the incidence of zombie fires.

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Source: BBC

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