Sponaneous Combustion: What Is It & Does It Kill?

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In summary, spontaneous combustion is the combustion of material that is not intentionally set on fire. It is most commonly associated with barn fires, but can also occur with materials like linseed oil, alkyd enamel resins, and drying oils. These materials can spontaneously ignite due to auto-oxidation, and often have older or disabled individuals as victims.
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JamesU
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What is spontaneous combudtion? does it kill? And, what does it look like?
 
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My grandfather was an avid gardner. I remember him making a huge pile of compost from sheep manure, straw and lawn clippings. I was conscripted into gardening duty one summer day, assigned to spread compost around the melon mounds. After removing a few pitch forks from the mound, smoke emanated from the cavity. I then observed a dry leaf burst into flames when it fell into the smoking cavity. In the farm belt, barn fires have been blamed on spontaneous combustion of green hay bales. In theory, fermentation is the cause of the heat build up. It is a controversial theory because the same heat would kill the responsible microbes. But I have seen it, hence believe it possible.
 
  • #3
Linseed oil, alkyd enamel resins, and some drying oils can ignite spontaneously due to auto-oxidation {just being exposed to air}.
When I was in high school art class a linseed oil soaked rag was tossed in the waste basket, a few hours later it went up in flames.
 
  • #4
when i saw the original post, i thought of spontaneous human combustion..

keep in mind that a human being (and most animals for that matter), being composed of sugars and fatty acids, are combustable. Ever observed a grease fire while grilling? The net oxidation of glucose down to CO2 is a highly exothermic process, releasing a great deal of energy in the form of heat. It is only because we have very specialized enzymatic pathways in our cells that this reaction proceeds in little steps at a time, so that the energy can be harvested and the process regulated. Likewise for the beta-oxidation of fatty acids.

It has since been noticed that cases of human combustion all had several variables in common: people who were non-mobile (usually older or disabled individuals) and a source of fire.
 
  • #5
quetzalcoatl9, shhhh...
 
  • #6
Chronos said:
In the farm belt, barn fires have been blamed on spontaneous combustion of green hay bales. In theory, fermentation is the cause of the heat build up. It is a controversial theory because the same heat would kill the responsible microbes. But I have seen it, hence believe it possible.
Very cool story.

Fermentation would mean that alcohol would have been produced wouldn't it? I wouldn't think this would take place in the whole mass of hay at once. While some microbes die soon, others would still be generating heat at the periphery.
 
  • #8
I have experienced the compost mound phenomena too when I was a kid! My dad actually cooked an egg in there, but there were no sheep droppings, so don't give me that disgusted look! :P
 
  • #9
I hope this returns what I intended it to.

The Bob (2004 ©)
 

Related to Sponaneous Combustion: What Is It & Does It Kill?

1. What is spontaneous combustion?

Spontaneous combustion is a phenomenon where a substance suddenly ignites and burns without an external source of heat or fire. This can occur due to a chemical reaction within the substance, or build-up of heat from microbial activity or decaying organic matter.

2. Is spontaneous combustion real?

Yes, spontaneous combustion is a real phenomenon that has been observed and documented throughout history. However, it is a rare occurrence and typically requires specific conditions for it to happen.

3. Can spontaneous combustion kill someone?

It is possible for spontaneous combustion to cause fatalities, but it is extremely rare. Most cases involve objects or materials igniting and causing damage, rather than harm to humans.

4. What are the most common substances that can undergo spontaneous combustion?

Some of the most common substances that can undergo spontaneous combustion include oily rags, hay, coal, and compost. These materials are prone to heat build-up and can ignite if not properly stored or ventilated.

5. How can spontaneous combustion be prevented?

To prevent spontaneous combustion, it is important to properly store and ventilate materials that are prone to heat build-up. This can include keeping oily rags in a sealed container, regularly turning over compost piles, and ensuring proper ventilation in areas where materials are stored.

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