Our friend Tim Ball sent us this email, so we thought we’d share it with you as an update to our story about peat fires.
Peat fires even in the tundra are perfectly normal and common. They were a constant nuisance to us flying search and rescue across northern and arctic Canada. People would report smoke and so we developed maps marking where the fires burned to save time and money and potentially our lives. There was one set of fires reported by Alexander Mackenzie http://www.canadahistory.com/sections/eras/british america/Mackenzie.html (1764-1820) that are still burning today, some 230 years later.
These burning areas, and to some extent their extent, is visible from the air in the winter because of the snow free area.
Incidentally, these fires are more prevalent because of the government practice of suppressing forest fires. This happens because forest fires called “crown” fires are normal and regenerative. When they don’t occur debris builds up until when you get a fire it becomes what is called a “base’ fire. These are very difficult to extinguish because the ground starts to burn. They can appear to put out the fire only to have it flare up weeks later.