Canada Zombie Fires prevelant in dead of winter

Sonja Leverkus
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Even in the dead of Canada’s winter, the embers of last year’s record-setting wildfire season remain. So-called zombie fires are burning under thick layers of snow at an unprecedented rate, raising fears about what the coming summer may bring.

People driving on the highway through the town of Fort Nelson, British Columbia (BC) in the winter can easily see – and smell – the clouds of white smoke flowing from the soil around them.
Sonja Leverkus, a firefighter and scientist who is local to the small north-eastern BC town, recalled driving during a snowstorm in November, but the snowfall didn’t look white.
Rather, she said, it was blueish-grey because of the smoke in the air.
“I’ve never experienced a snowstorm that smelled like smoke,” said Ms Leverkus, who has lived in northern BC for more than 15 years.

These plumes were still visible into February, she added, even on bitter cold days when temperatures had plummeted to -40C (-40F).

The Fort Nelson smoke is the result of zombie fires – also called overwintering fires.
They are flameless smoulders that burn slowly below the surface, and are kept alive thanks to an organic soil called peat moss common in North America’s boreal forest and to thick layers of snow that insulate them from the cold.


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Chuck comes from a lineage of journalism. He has written for some of the webs most popular news sites. He enjoys spending time outdoors, bull riding, and collecting old vinyl records. Roll Tide!