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View Full Version : Firefighters - ever been unable to find a body?



melindamusil
05-17-2013, 10:12 PM
The short version:
After a major fire, have you ever been unable to find a body due to the level of destruction? (i.e. the body was burned so badly it is unrecognizable as a body)

The longer version:
Bad guys are holed up in a medium- to large-size house. There is a standoff with the police. Bad guys escape through a series of tunnels, but as they escape, they light a bomb that destroys the house and causes a really bad fire. After the fire is extinguished, the police/fire investigators do not find any bodies. They also do not find the tunnels. Since they believe bad guys were in the house at the time of the explosion, they presume the bad guys are dead.

(Bad guys will reappear later in the story.)

Would this be believable?

benbenberi
05-17-2013, 10:46 PM
My understanding is that a normal house fire is not able to generate the kind of heat needed to completely obliterate human remains.

Elaine Margarett
05-17-2013, 11:02 PM
The short version:
After a major fire, have you ever been unable to find a body due to the level of destruction? (i.e. the body was burned so badly it is unrecognizable as a body)

The longer version:
Bad guys are holed up in a medium- to large-size house. There is a standoff with the police. Bad guys escape through a series of tunnels, but as they escape, they light a bomb that destroys the house and causes a really bad fire. After the fire is extinguished, the police/fire investigators do not find any bodies. They also do not find the tunnels. Since they believe bad guys were in the house at the time of the explosion, they presume the bad guys are dead.

(Bad guys will reappear later in the story.)

Would this be believable?

There was a fire in the New York area where the temperatures were extremely high. I can't remember the temps so I don't want to say, but what I do know is that the victim, an elderly lady who used a walker was thought to have perished. Part of her walker was found in the burned down house. Search dogs were brought in to search the ruins and came up empty...until one of the dogs made an alert on the demolition pile that had been set up across the driveway. Sadly the woman had died and there was so little of her left the firefights who were removing debris didn't know what it was. But the dog knew.

EM
(who is using this in my WIP)

asroc
05-17-2013, 11:08 PM
A regular structure fire won't completely destroy or evaporate a body. Every fatal fire I've responded to had remains and if they aren't found right away the investigators will keep looking until they can account for them.

WeaselFire
05-17-2013, 11:16 PM
Since they believe bad guys were in the house at the time of the explosion, they presume the bad guys are dead.
No body, no dead guy. They found bodies at the World Trade Center, they found them after the Texas fertilizer plant exploded. They will find something. Though they may not be able to identify who they found...

Jeff

cornflake
05-17-2013, 11:23 PM
Cremation generally leaves identifiable pieces of bone and such; no house fire unless it's, as above, a plane fell on it, is going to come close to leaving no body.

melindamusil
05-18-2013, 01:22 AM
Hm. Would it make a difference if there were accelerants used to get the fire to burn at a higher temp?

Another idea: what if the bad guys left a couple of bodies of their previous murder victims in the house? If you knew that "Joe Bad Guy" and "Bob Bad Guy" were in the building, the building burned, and you found a couple of (badly burned) bodies, would you assume that those bodies belonged to Joe and Bob?

cornflake
05-18-2013, 04:17 AM
Hm. Would it make a difference if there were accelerants used to get the fire to burn at a higher temp?

Another idea: what if the bad guys left a couple of bodies of their previous murder victims in the house? If you knew that "Joe Bad Guy" and "Bob Bad Guy" were in the building, the building burned, and you found a couple of (badly burned) bodies, would you assume that those bodies belonged to Joe and Bob?

No, it wouldn't. It just isn't going to burn that hot outside of an extraordinary circumstance, like the above flaming jet fuel bomb.

You would never assume a body belonged to anyone. Don't you know what happens when you assume? ;)

An arson investigator can spot an accelerant trail in a, forgive me, hot second, and regardless, no one assumes anything about a body. They hold all assumptions until positive identification is made and there's no way you can't make it in a house fire (barring the above and even then).

What happens when people assume - Somewhere in this general vicinity a number of years ago, there was a house fire in a small town. It was very destructive and afterwards, though there were no reports of children in the home, the firefighters found a collection of small bones. The cops and town's medical examiner decided the bones belonged to an infant who had presumably been killed or had died or whatever and this sparked a whole mystery (murder! Coverup! Satanic baby sacrifice ring!) that made the papers in the town and surrounding area. It was a whole thing, for about a week, until the actual expert came to town, took one look at the remains and said, 'uhm, that was a rabbit.'

jclarkdawe
05-18-2013, 05:51 AM
Starting point is to look at the death of Christopher Dorner and the recovery of his body. It will provide a lot of answers for you.

If no body is found, you're going to assume no body.

But if I wanted to destroy a body in a fire, or at least create the possibility, I'd think about using magnesium. Burns at about 3,000 degrees F. and explodes if water is added. There's some video on the net showing race car fires involving magnesium.

You're not going to fool anyone that it isn't in the fire (very distinctive when burning), and you need to know what you're doing to get it going, but beyond that, it's a thousand degrees F. hotter then cremation, takes hours or longer to be put out, and burns through a lot of things. Seriously nasty stuff in a fire.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe