- Title: In Polish mountains, charcoal burners try to keep fire alight
- Date: 23rd November 2016
- Summary: BALIGROD, POLAND (NOVEMBER 19, 2016) (REUTERS) BIESZCZADY MOUNTAINS CHARCOAL PRODUCTION SITE LOCATED IN WOODS VARIOUS CHARCOAL BURNER, ZYGMUNT FURDYGIEL, LOADING RETORT WITH WOOD (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) CHARCOAL BURNER, ZYGMUNT FURDYGIEL, SAYING: "The thickest wood should be placed in the centre and above the fireplace. The finer ones, like the shafts, should be placed next to the walls, because after lighting the fire circulation spreads it to the walls and the chimneys." VARIOUS FURDYGIEL LOADING RETORT WITH WOOD FURDYGIEL IGNITING WOOD WOOD BURNING (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) CHARCOAL BURNER, ZYGMUNT FURDYGIEL, SAYING: "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." WHITE SMOKE FROM RETORT FURDYGIEL SHUTTING RETORT HATCH, SHOUTING (Polish): "To the mother in law!" HATCH LATCH (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) CHARCOAL BURNER, ZYGMUNT FURDYGIEL, SAYING: "When I watch the retort I see everything inside, but the average citizen, they will see nothing." RETORT, FURDYGIEL SAYING (Polish): "It smokes for two days then cools for another two days, so you can say on the fifth day I take out the charcoal." (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) CHARCOAL BURNER, ZYGMUNT FURDYGIEL, SAYING: "At first it burns with an open (roof) hatch. When the fire burns well, the roof hatch is closed and circulation goes in the opposite (direction), to the chimneys." RETORT FURDYGIEL CLIMBING TO RETORT ROOF FURDYGIEL CLOSING ROOF HATCH WATER LEAKING FROM RETORT (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) CHARCOAL BURNER, ZYGMUNT FURDYGIEL, SAYING: "My workflow is that one barrel is burning, second one is cooling, I unload third one and load it again and start from the beginning." BIESZCZADY MOUNTAINS SKYLINE FURDYGIEL PUTTING WOOD INTO HUT FURNACE CATS LYING ON BED, FURDYGIEL SAYING (Polish): "I am not quite that lonely." VARIOUS FURDYGIEL PREPARING FOOD AND EATING SMOKE OVER RETORT (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) CHARCOAL BURNER, ZYGMUNT FURDYGIEL, SAYING: "Without electricity, without internet, the Middle Ages exist here. Water from the river, I do not pay for electricity because the sun shines during the day, and at night 'the bald guy' shines for me." BALIGROD, POLAND (NOVEMBER 17, 2016) (REUTERS) FURDYGIEL CARRYING SACKS TO FILL WITH CHARCOAL FURDYGIEL OPENING RETORT VARIOUS FURDYGIEL LOADING SACKS WITH CHARCOAL/TYING THEM FOR TRANSPORT (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) CHARCOAL BURNER, ZYGMUNT FURDYGIEL, SAYING: "There are less and less charcoal burning sites, and there are less of us, the burners. Little by little we are becoming history." MOUNTAINS FURDYGIEL WALKING AWAY FROM RETORT
- Embargoed: 8th December 2016 11:48
- Keywords: Poland charcoal burning EU
- Location: BALIGROD, POLAND
- City: BALIGROD, POLAND
- Country: Poland
- Topics: Human Interest/Brights/Odd News,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA00159O0DH5
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: In a forest in Poland's southern Bieszczady mountains, Zygmunt Furdygiel loads large logs of beech wood into a furnace to transform them in a lengthy process of controlled combustion into charcoal.
Furdygiel has worked as a charcoal burner for more than 40 years, turning wood into the black carbon. In the snow-covered Bieszczady range, he is one of few such burners left, regularly filling some four furnaces, or retorts, with wood.
The 69-year old says it takes him 2.5 to 3 hours to carry dozens of logs into one retort and goes on to explain how important it is to place them inside correctly.
"The thickest wood should be placed in the centre and above the fireplace."
After the retort is full, it is left to burn for days in a process called dry distillation, which under Furdygiel's watchful eye turns the wood inside into a more efficient fuel.
There are no sensors inside the retort to measure the right conditions, but decades of experience give the burner valuable insight.
"When the smoke is white, it produces coal, when the smoke is blue it produces ash," he says.
"When I watch the retort I see everything inside, but the average citizen, they will see nothing."
Furdygiel works for a local company and can produce around a tonne of charcoal from each of the furnaces placed deep in the woods of the Bieszczady mountains.
While working, Furdygiel lives alone in a small hut with just his cats, spending evenings on watching nature and wild animals that visit his site.
"The Middle Ages exist here," he says, but doesn't complain about the lack of modern day comforts.
Electrical light is replaced by the sunlight by day and light from the moon, which Furdygiel jokingly calls the "bald guy", at night.
According to the regional office for Poland's national forests, there were more than 50 such charcoal burning bases in Bieszczady in 2000 with more than 600 retorts. Today, there are less than 10 with around 40 retorts as cheaper imports from neighbouring countries like Ukraine have hurt local production.
Local manufacturers fear their numbers may fall further as they say anyone who produces from 1 to 100 tonnes will now have to register with the European Chemicals Agency, paying a fee as well as the cost of analysis of their product for chemical substances. Some say it could be a hefty sum, pushing their business too close to the verge of profitability.
"There are less and less charcoal burning sites, and there are less of us, the burners," Furdygiel said.
"Little by little, we are becoming history."
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