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Daily News Analysis

Zombie Fire

22nd July, 2023 Environment

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  • Instances of zombie fires are rising in north and the Arctic due to increase in temperature.
  • In U.S. and Canada, Widespread thick layers of smoke due to these wildfires lead to orange sky, air pollution and related health problems.
  • The scenario is providing a peak into a dry and a bleak future.

Zombie fires

  • Wildfires not only affect trees and grasses but move into the ground also.
  • Zombie fires refer to such underground fires which are present underground, sustain a season and reignite when there is an increase in temperature.
  • For instance in carbon-rich peatlands of Canada, fire smoulders dozens of feet underground.
  • It is a fire left from a previous growing season.

Affected Area of Arctic peat –

  • If we consider previous 40 years, last 8 years contributed to 70% cases of such fires.
  • The 30% contribution comes from year 2020 alone.

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Concerns/Implications of frequent Zombie fires

  • Drying of organic-rich Arctic soils – it leads to burning and releasing enormous amounts of smoke into the atmosphere.
  • Underground fires are quite hard to tame even for firefighters and are dangerous.
  • Hence damage inflicted is more and the resources required to extinguish fires are more.
  • Zombie fires may result into ground instability, hence it becomes risky to use heavy equipment for fire extinguishing there.
  • Such fires have a long life.
    • For instance, Arctic soil fires sustain winters and during early spring can reignite with the rise in temperature.

Warming of Arctic

  • The main reason for warming arctic and frequent instances of zombie fires is rising temperatures in arctic.
  • Compare to the rest of the world it is warming nearly four times faste It is known as Arctic amplification.
  • In the arctic region a 2 degree C (3.6 F) increase in temperature is seen compared with pre-industrial times.


  • Taiga and Tundra forests become more susceptible to such burning.
  • Dead plant material in peat soil rich burn at a faster pace.
  • Insulating layer of permafrost, frozen carbon-rich soil of arctic, is removed.
  • Such wildfires lead to many health complications and put people's health at risk.

Way Ahead/Hope for Future

  • Understanding the full extent and potential of zombie fires in Arctic region.
  • Some studies suggest that underground fires were most prevalent in tree roots than in soil hence low carbon emissions.
  • More Firefighters should be trained accordingly to deal effectively with such instances.
  • Best practices to fight zombie fires are to be implemented and awareness to be be generated in public.
  • More focus and immediate actions to curb human-induced climate change, temperature to be more specific.

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Zombie fires



What are Zombie fires? Explain by highlighting the associated threats/risks to humans and environment. Also discuss the measures needed to deal with increasing instances of such underground fires. (150 words)