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Oddly Enough

Polish charcoal burners try to keep fire alight

Friday, November 25, 2016 - 01:35

Poland's traditional charcoal manufacturers face closure due to cheaper imports, EU regulations. Elly Park reports.

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Deep inside the Bieszczady mountains in southern Poland, Zygmunt Furdygiel is skillfully practicing one of the oldest human crafts. Furdygiel is a charcoal burner, creating the fuel by carbonizing large piles of wood. It takes several hours for the 69-year-old to load a retort that is then left to burn for days. SOUNDBITE: Charcoal Burner, Zygmunt Furdygiel, saying (Polish) "It is so-called dry distillation - the evaporation of smoke and water that leaves carbon. When the smoke is white, it produces coal, when the smoke is blue it produces ash." There are no sensors inside the furnace to measure the right conditions, but 40 years of experience gives the burner valuable insight. SOUNDBITE: Charcoal Burner, Zygmunt Furdygiel, saying (Polish) "At first it burns with an open hatch. When the fire burns well, the roof hatch is closed and circulation goes in the opposite (direction), to the chimneys." After the long and slow process, the large logs have turned into this - black carbon. While each retort can produce around a ton of charcoal per cycle, Polish charcoal burners are facing tough competition from cheaper, foreign coal. Local official say that in 2000 there were over 50 charcoal burners in these mountains. Today, Furdygiel is among a handful left to keep the fire alight.

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Polish charcoal burners try to keep fire alight

Friday, November 25, 2016 - 01:35