1. Stormsong07

    Stormsong07 Contributor Contributor

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    How much of a human body would be left after a fire...

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Stormsong07, Feb 28, 2017.

    A bit gruesome, I know. But I have a character who is inside a flour mill when it explodes. (Flour explodes when separated and exposed to oxygen and an open flame or spark. Someone ripped open a bag of flour and scattered it through the mill, then lit it on fire to kill my poor miller)
    He is trapped under the millstone (think medieval watermill) and dies.
    MC returns to the scene the next day after the fire. (the deceased is her father)
    I know the wreckage of the fire would most likely still be smoking. The mill itself has blown apart. The bakery next door was partially standing immediately after the explosion but has since collapsed.
    My question is, if MC were to pick through the wreckage and find the millstone (which she knew her father had been trapped under) how much would remain? He survived the initial explosion long enough for MC to brave the fire and speak to him briefly before he passed. However, no one would have been able to move the millstone without a winch of some sort, so the fire would have raged around his body for a while before they got it under control.
    Googling tells me crematoriums burn bodies at a much hotter temperature than wood fires burn. So I imagine there would be some bone remains. Would they crumble at a touch? How much do you think would remain?
     
  2. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    Whew, macabre stuff!

    I'm too squeamish to do the research, but if I were you I'd google what a corpse looks like after a house fire. I'm sure there are autopsy photos and such that the fire department has to take if they fail to save someone.
     
  3. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Depending on the temp of the fire, there would be bones and teeth
    left behind in the least. Even bodies in a crematorium still leave
    behind bone fragments that are put into a dryer with ball bearings
    to pulverize them to a fine powders. So even at a higher temp, there
    will be bone fragments left behind from the denser parts of the
    skeleton however minute. So it all depends on the length of time
    they are exposed to the fire, temp, and body fat of the person exposed.
    Fat acts like a wick increasing the length a body will burn without the
    being directly in a place of other fuels.

    Granted it would be a painful way to die, as they scream and gasp for
    air before they die. :)
     
  4. Stormsong07

    Stormsong07 Contributor Contributor

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    Hmm. I'm thinking now it would probably be too macabre for the age group I am writing for. Not to mention, upon reflection, I don't think my MC is the type to go and look at exactly what remains. (heh...see what I did there? lol).
    I do appreciate the input, though.

    Long story short.....NEVERMIND....nixing this idea.
     
  5. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    Traditionally, it's ashes and two stumps with shoes.
     
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  6. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    In Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut described the corpses of the people who were incinerated in a firestorm in Dresden. He described them, IIRC, as "charred logs" or "oversized grasshoppers." He was one of the "corpse miners" who removed the bodies from the ashes. It's worth looking up, both as a source for your information and for its being a masterpiece of writing.
     
  7. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    It would take a very long, hot fire to destroy a human body and it would have to burn for a long time. We are essentially well wrapped bags of water. You know how if you put a green log on a fire, the outside will char and it'll smolder? That's because there is a lot of water in that wood. Humans are way wetter than even water-logged wood.
     
  8. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    Firelighters, probably use a whole packet, and her old newspapers and magazines, maybe some coal on top from the petrol station, and maybe some petrol, and maybe some water-logged wood to throw the fire brigade. A cigarette end also and a three bar fire, and a bale of hay. Cut a slit in the body to reduce the water, cut off the head, I reckon, or bury the body first, that way you make charcoal, and she'd be useful in death, or he, it doesn't matter to me. Either ways I got your back on this crime scene, good luck with the burning of your body(s).
     
  9. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Cutting the body would not reduce the amount of water. The water is stored mostly in cells, which have individual membranes.
     
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  10. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    He doesn't care about membrane, he's disposing of his wife for god's sake, last thing on his mind is your sience.
     
  11. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    A wood chipper and a pig farm is a by far more reliable method.... um, I mean so I've heard :D
     
  12. Paul Kinsella

    Paul Kinsella Member

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    Here is a good articel: https://www.sott.net/article/185067-Body-burners-The-forensics-of-fire

    "A human limb burns a little like a tree branch," says John DeHaan, a fire investigator at Fire-Ex Forensics in Vallejo, California, who works with Pope. First, he says, the thin outer layers of skin fry and begin to peel off as the flames dance across their surface. Then, after around 5 minutes, the thicker dermal layer of skin shrinks and begins to split, allowing the underlying yellow fat to leak out.

    "That's when the fire gets most interesting," says DeHaan. Body fat can make a good fuel source, but it needs material such as clothing or charred wood to act as a wick. Like that in a wax candle, a wick absorbs the fat and pulls it into the flame, where it is vapourised, so enabling it to burn.

    Assuming there is sufficient wick material, the body can sustain its own fire for around 7 hours. During this time, the heat causes muscles to dry out and contract, making the limbs move and sometimes adopt characteristic postures. Bone takes longer to burn, so by the end the skeleton is usually laid bare like a charred anatomical model, coated in the greasy residue of burned flesh.
     
  13. Paul Kinsella

    Paul Kinsella Member

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    This is what it might look like. (A scene from "Star Wars".)

    89a974435b8d4c029dfb79f8cca67f80.jpg
     

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