Cremator says whoomph

Charles 3 Comments

Germany is a world leader in crematorium technology, but its crematoria are finding it hard to cope with some of its XXL citizens: 

The crematorium employee in the western German town of Hamelin took a last look at the coffin before pushing it inside the furnace. This was the third coffin he had processed on the morning of January 13, and the body itself weighed over 200 kilograms (440 pounds). Of that, only two kilograms of ashes were supposed to remain after cremation. But, 15 minutes later, flames shot out of the crematorium’s 10-meter-high (33-foot-high) stainless-steel chimney, and parts of it began to melt. 

Unable to bring the fire under control, the employee called the fire department. Firemen determined that the smoking chimney was glowing at 600 degrees Celsius (1,100 degrees Fahrenheit). They cooled it from the side and used an infrared camera to track the spread of heat through the building. It took four hours to reduce the body in the furnace to ash.

It’s the high fat content that does it. 

Firefighters responding to a fire at a crematorium in Hamburg in January 2008 even had to don protective breathing masks. The cremation of the body of an overweight man had led to a deflagration. The bypass flaps jammed and exhaust was unable to escape through the chimney. As a result, brownish smoke billowed through the building and the firefighters’ instruments showed high levels of toxic carbon monoxide.

To avoid spikes in pollution levels, a study by the Bavarian Environment Agency recommends placing coffins of particularly heavy corpses into the furnace “with the lid slightly open”.

Because there are so many crematoria in Germany, there is much competition between them. This has brought the cost of cremation down to £250. 

Is anyone aware of similar fat-fire problems in UK crematoria? (We  know all about the cost problems.) 

Info source here.


  1. Charles

    As part of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management’s meeting at Arnos Vale last year we toured the old crematorium and were regaled with stories from crematorium managers about “runaway” cremations where the staff lost control of the fire, which drew in oxygen through gaps in the poorly sealed furnaces. Not only did the fires runaway, but the staff did too!

  2. Charles

    OK Charles, that’s it – prize headline. Congratulations. The Committee decided unanimously over a bottle of CndeP yestereve to award you a Gloria for that headline and indeed for the story, including the laconic aside about fat content. (Well we didn’t think it was the matches in his pocket….).

    James gets best supporting quip for “the staff did too.”

    A pathetically token-sized donation will soon be on its way to WaterAid. Thirsty people in other parts of the world will be able to thank you two wits for a microsecond or two next time they drink some nice clean water.

    I’m referring of course to East Anglia….

    Now, for God’s sake, no tearful speeches…..

  3. Charles

    My dear old GM, how touchingly kind of you. No tearful speeches; I am lost for words. What an incentivator you are.

    Ticklish timing. Stand by for tomorrow’s third world appeal – for a funeral pyre. Truly.

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