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Crematorium Accident Sends Smoke with Possible Human Remains Up in the Air in San Diego

A door left open Thursday at a crematorium in San Diego while the facility was in use, sending smoke with possible human remains up in the air.

When firefighters responded to the Cortez Family Crematorium on the 100 block of West 35th Street around 12:15 p.m., a large amount of smoke was coming from the chimney, National City Fire Battalion Chief Mark Beveridge said.

The crematorium had already put a body inside the oven, turned on the furnace but the door failed to close, National City Fire Department (NCFD) director of emergency services Frank Parra said.

The smoke and heat activated the building’s fire suppression system and firefighters were able to shut the door and turn off the furnace, Beveridge said. The furnace was burning at around 1,700 degrees, he said.

A crew remained at the scene to ventilate and clear the smoke from the building, he said.

It was possible that some ashes with human remains escaped through the chimney, Parra said.

"Well, this is a crematorium," he said. "As far as smoke, some would say that majority of the smoke is water vapor. We did not see any type of ash floating out of the chimney."

The company that makes the furnace confirmed the smoke was actually just water vapor, Beveridge said.

A construction crew was working nearby and didn’t bother to stop doing their work, Parra said.

The smoke was not toxic and no evacuations were needed, Beveridge said.

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