FORT NELSON, British Columbia – In the Canadian town of Fort Nelson, despite cold temperatures and layers of snow covering the ground, plumes of smoke continue to linger in the air.

The clouds and the resulting smell are the result of overwintering fires, or ‘Zombie Fires’. According to the BBC, these cold-weather smolders linger from the larger Canadian fires seen this past summer, burning slowly beneath the surface with the aid of peat moss and insulation from the above snow.

Peat moss is fairly common in the boreal forests of North America, keeping around five to six of these ‘zombie fires’ burning during the winter every year for the past ten years in British Columbia. But, as of January, 106 overwintering fires continued to burn in the province, and 91 continue to burn today. In Alberta, 57 were continuing to burn as of earlier this month.

While these ghost-like fires usually die out over the winter, any that continue to burn by the time the snow begins to melt could reignite, and they’ve been linked to early starts to the wildfire season.

According to Mike Flannigan, professor and fire management expert at Thompson Rivers University, the increase in zombie fires is at least partially a result of Canada’s record wildfire season this past summer. An additional cause is the drought that continued into the winter, leading to a dramatic lack of snowfall.

Though it’s too early to predict what the upcoming wildfire season will look like for British Columbia, serious burns could begin as early as March or April if these zombie fires reignite.

Related: Cougar Attacks Five Mountain Bikers In Washington State

Image Credit: CBC News: The National via YouTube

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