500-lb. body causes fire at Virginia crematory

Reuters / Stringer RT

The cremation of a body weighing at least 500 pounds was the likely cause of a fire that broke out at a Virginia crematory on Wednesday. Authorities said the “rather large” cadaver caused excessive heat and oil during cremation.

The fire at Southside Cremation Services in Henrico County, Virginia was likely caused when the cremation furnace overheated, according to fire officials.  

“The Henrico Fire Marshal’s office has determined the cause of the fire to have been accidental in nature,”Henrico Fire spokesman Capt. Daniel Rosenbaum told WTVR. “The rubber roofing near the smoke stack was ignited by the heat of the stack.”

Three people inside the building were able to flee without harm, as fire crews were able extinguish the blaze in short order, WTVR reported. Only the roof of the building was damaged, according to reports.

Southside Cremation Services is known for its ability to handle large cadavers for cremation, according to manager Jerry L. Hendrix Sr.

“There was no damage to the body that would not be normal; it remained within the retort and we are about to proceed with the remainder of the cremation,”Hendrix said.

Hendrix verified that the body weighed at least 500 pounds.

“The man was a little larger than what we had done in the past,” said Hendrix.

The family of the deceased man was not in the facility during the cremation, Hendrix said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Emory Sanford, of Windsor Crematory in Brunswick, Virginia, told the Times-Dispatch that a 300-pound body can take four or five hours to cremate.

“When the person is too heavy, the guy running the crematory needs to not have continuous heat coming down on the body. Otherwise it would get too hot,” Sanford said.


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