HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A crematorium off Mechanicsville Turnpike caught fire Wednesday afternoon as an employee was cremating a 500 pound body. Neighbors could see the smoke billowing from the smokestack around noon. The fire marshal is ruling it an accident.
There have been incidents like this before at cremation companies all over the nation. But in 20 years of working here, the manager at Southside Cremation says it's never happened to them.
He says it happened as a result of the size of the body his workers were processing at the time. When it comes to handling obese bodies, extra steps are taken to ensure the cremation process goes smoothly. Jerry Hendrix says the worker took all the right steps -- but because this particular situation involved a 500 pound body, things took an unexpected turn.
"The body was so obese that the actual body fat came off and went straight up the sack and hit the roof material, the rubber roof we have up there and that's what made it go up like it did…It was no negligence involved in it. My guys, we did all we could. Once it started, the grease hit the roof and started the fire, the only thing we could do is dial 911 and get the fire department here,” Hendrix said.
There were 3 bodies on site at the cremation site at the time of the fire, but the manager says none were damaged in the process. As for the 500 pound body, the company was able to finish preparing it later Wednesday.
Three people were inside of the plant at the time of the fire. All were able to get out unharmed. The fire was contained to the roof and was under control within half an hour.
The business will be closed for a few days to repair damage to the roof and furnace.
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