Deceased obese woman's body sets crematorium on fire in Austria
Firemen in the southern city of Graz got covered in thick sticky soot as they tried to stop the blaze from taking hold of the building.
The case has been widely reported in Austrian media and has ignited calls for a weight limit on bodies to protect against future fires.
Some countries such as Switzerland and the UK already have facilities, which cater for extra large bodies, in line with the growing trend of expanding waistlines.
Funeral director Christea Bogdan, of Gillman Undertakers, Tooting, south London, said he had never before in his career heard of such an event.
“I have never come across such a case,” the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
An expert report on the Austria fire has revealed that the woman being cremated weighed more than 200kg and her size had caused the oven to overheat.
The press reports state that the filter temperature reached 300C and officials realised there was a problem when thick black smoke started billowing into the building.
The device was immediately switched off but by then there was already a fire in the filter.
Firemen whose clothing was left covered with a layer of greasy black soot were snapped as they tackled the difficult to extinguish blaze in special breathing gear to avoid breathing in the fumes.
In the end they had to bring the fire under control by sending a blast of water in through the vents used to clear the filter. Repair work took several days during which time the crematorium was out of action.
Firemen said that after reports of similar problems at other cemeteries not only in Austria but also in Switzerland, officials were now are considering a ban on larger bodies.
“We do have large bodies that we have to deal with, which weigh 30+ stone, but not very often,” London-based Bogdan said.
“We follow the same procedures as usual for large bodies. We have to check the size in the crematorium to check the person in the coffin will fit in the crematorium,” Bogdan said.
Bogdan said most crematoriums dealt with a standard 36ins outside measurement of a coffin. However there were some facilities, such as the City of London Crematorium, which now catered for larger, 50-55ins coffin circumferences.
“Crematorium officials need to be more responsible and not just automatically put everybody in to be cremated,” Graz-based fireman Otto Widetschek said.
He said that in Switzerland there were moves now to make sure that XXL bodies were routinely shipped to a special crematorium able to deal with the extra heat caused by larger bodies.