The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Spontaneous Human Combustion

Graham Marshall - Monday, April 01, 2013
Oklahoma Authorities are speculating that the death of a 65-year-old Oklahoma man was caused by spontaneous human combustion.

Smoke was seem emanating from his home, and when Firefighters arrived on the scene, they quickly realized that 65-year-old Danny Vanzandt appeared to have burst into flames in his kitchen. 

Firefighters reported no evidence of fire damage to the man’s house or furniture. 

County Sheriff Ron Lockhart, who had investigated cases of arson for two decades, was baffled by the man’s demise. 

After extensive research, Lockhart concluded that the man’s death was “an unusual and bizarre case.” 

While the victim consumed alcohol and smoked cigarettes, authorities concluded that it was impossible for the combination to prompt his death by fire. 

The spontaneous combustion of a living being remains a phenomenon for which there is no sufficient scientific explanation. 

While human combustion remains largely an area of speculation, there are frequent cases of non-living substances bursting into flames spontaneously. 

In spontaneous combustion cases, an internal reaction self-heats an item, rapidly boosting its temperature. 

Heat cannot escape quickly enough to prevent the item’s temperature from reaching an ignition point. 

Haystacks, coal, pistachio nuts, and piles of manure or compost are all capable of spontaneously combusting under the right circumstances. 

Dry grasslands can also ignite during periods of intense heat, but the causes of vegetative combustion are not yet scientifically understood. 

Roughly two hundred deaths have been attributed to spontaneous combustion since the 1700s. 

Explanations range from scientifically reasonable (unobservable natural phenomena) to unabashedly spiritual (direct divine intervention). 

In each case, a human form is completely consumed by flames while the surrounding area remains unaffected. 

No external triggers or accelerants are located on the scene, nor can authorities pinpoint a single point of origin on the body. 
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