The following is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article Mercury in fish:

"Coal contains mercury as a natural contaminant. When it is fired for electricity generation, the mercury is released as smoke into the atmosphere."

I first assumed that it's a mistake, but the automatic translation result seemed to be the intended one, as if "to burn" was used. A quick search did not help me find any relevant information.

Is it a mistake, or is it just an unusual but correct way to express this information? Or perhaps there is some subtlety I am missing?

  • 2
    It's just odd, and may be idiomatic in that particular corner of technology.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 17, 2022 at 18:51
  • When coal is fire. To fire coal. That's how it is said.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 17, 2022 at 19:23

1 Answer 1


Looks like this definition of fire (from Lexico):

Supply (a furnace, engine, boiler, or power station) with fuel.

  • ‘liquefied petroleum gas can fire room heaters’
  • ‘We were constructing wooden housing and using charcoal to fire blast furnaces.’
  • ‘As a teenager, to help his parents, he'd work double shifts firing engines in rail yards.’
  • ‘Because Watt's engine was fired by coal and not water, spinning factories could be located virtually anywhere.’

The fact that the sentence contains "for electricity generation" makes fire not have any edge in this context over another verb such as burn or even consume. In other contexts (including all the examples in Lexico), you can't just replace it with burn (well, not without being arrested for arson).

  • When coal is fired is how it is said in the coal burning industry. Haha
    – Lambie
    Commented May 17, 2022 at 19:24
  • Shouldn't it be coal firing industry then? ;)
    – Szymon
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 19:34

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