California

Crematorium mishap shoots plume of human ashes into air, San Diego officials say

National City, California, firefighters at the scene of a crematorium accident Thursday that sent human ashes into the air.
National City, California, firefighters at the scene of a crematorium accident Thursday that sent human ashes into the air. Screenshot from KGTV

As fire crews arrived on Thursday, they found heavy smoke billowing out of the building in National City, California.

The building was Cortez Cremations and Funeral Services, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. And it wasn’t just any plume of particulates: It was a mixture of human remains from an accidentally-open furnace, heavy smoke and chemicals from a fire suppression system, fire officials told Fox San Diego. Fire officials were called to the scene in southern San Diego County just after noon, and helped shut the door of the furnace, which had been cremating a body at the time.

The smoke was spewing from the building’s chimney and from its open doors, KGTV reports. Fire officials confirmed that the smoke contained human ashes.

The good news is that there was no public health risk, according to the San Diego Air Pollution Control District. The incident didn’t let any flames out of the furnace, either, Fox reports.

But the plume of smoke was still substantial enough that it was visible from a nearby Walmart and Best Buy, witnesses told KGTV. Fire officials said the smoke had a strong smell as well.

The oven at the crematorium reaches temperatures of about 1,700 degrees as it cremates bodies, the Union-Tribune reports. That created an additional challenge for fire fighters attempting to control the situation, as heat from the furnace spread through the building, Battalion Chief Mark Beveridge told the newspaper.

After the fire was contained, the crematorium picked up its regular operations Thursday afternoon, KGTV reports.

Home fires are more prevalent in winter than in any other season. This is due in part to an increase in cooking and heating fires. Holiday decorations and winter storms that can interrupt electrical service and cause people to turn to alternative

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