San Diego

Crematorium Accident Sends Smoke Up in the Air in South Bay

A door was left open Thursday at a crematorium in the South Bay while the facility was in use, sending smoke 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.

Parra initially said it was possible that some ashes with human remains escaped through the chimney.

“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.”

However, the company that makes the furnace said the smoke was actually just water vapor, according to Beveridge.

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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