Diane Wehr Street Photography
The Camp

The Charcoal Burners of Serra San Bruno

Using ancient and traditional methods, the charcoal burners of Serra San Bruno produce coal from wood.

The Camp

The Camp

Our first glimpse into the camp where charcoal is burned. It was hard to know what to expect.

The Greeter

The Greeter

Three dogs oversee the work being done.

Building the Scarazzo

Building the Scarazzo

The charcoal burning “volcano” is constructed completely by hand. There is an inner pile of heavy logs placed vertically. Next comes an open fire ring.

Building the Scarazzo

Building the Scarazzo

Finally, there is an outer ring of thinner wooden branches that are piled up horizontally.

Finishing Touches

Finishing Touches

The smallest branches are placed in a teepee-like fashion to finish the dome. It is then covered with dried grass and finally mud that has been mixed with previously burned charcoal.

The Burn

The Burn

A tarp is placed around the mound to control the wind. The mound burns for about three weeks. During that time is has to be checked every two hours around the clock.

The Burn is Complete

The Burn is Complete

The mound cools.

Tending the Burned Mound

Tending the Burned Mound

Two tons of charcoal, which have a value of approximately 1000€, are then bagged for sale.

The Spokesman

The Spokesman

The tools of this work are hand tools, shovels, large curved machete-like knives and ladders made of tree branches. Because the charcoal burners are breathing smoke all day every day, I asked how long their grandfathers lived. The answer was into their 80s or later. I have seen this smoke referred to as “non-toxic’ smoke. I did not know such a thing existed. Perhaps it does.