• Question: Is Spontaneous Combustion possible?

    Asked by rachel1995 to Amy, Drew, Julia, Kimberley, Sara on 15 Jun 2011. This question was also asked by robina, mightymeaty, rmolloy67.
    • Photo: Drew Rae

      Drew Rae answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      Hi Rachel,
      The best answer I’ve heard of this is on a podcast called “Skeptoid”. The reporter, Brian Dunning, summarises why people think that people can spontaneously combust.

      Fire always needs three things – fuel, oxygen, and a source of ignition. If you have those things, you can have fire. If you put a human in a hot enough fire, they will burn. Human bodies have a lot of fat, so if someone is unconscious or asleep with a cigarette, and they start a fire in their clothes or blankets, they can slowly burn like a candle.

      People don’t just burst into flames without something to start the flames though.

    • Photo: Julia Griffen

      Julia Griffen answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      Guess an explosion is spontaneous combustion…

    • Photo: Amy MacQueen

      Amy MacQueen answered on 15 Jun 2011:

      Hmmmm…i guess the source of ignition is the problem for spontaneous combustion. What have you read about it? 🙂

    • Photo: Sara Imari Walker

      Sara Imari Walker answered on 15 Jun 2011:

      Hi rachel1995. Fascinating question! I think most of the stories of spontaneous combustion are hoaxes. Its not physically possible for someone to burst into flames spontaneously without an outside source. But it is interesting to think about if it were possible …