A crematorium is a facility that houses a cremator having a cremation chamber or retort. In this chamber, the body of a deceased incinerated and hence, reduced to skeletal remains and bone fragments.
Cremation chambers are usually lined with heat-resistant refractory bricks. These bricks should be replaced every five years.
The cremation process takes place in a crematory with one or more furnaces. The first US crematory was built by Dr. F. Julius LeMoyne, an American medical doctor and philanthropist in the year 1876.
Image Credit: Coastal Funeral Home
Earlier, most crematories used coal and coke as fuels for the cremator (a furnace that produces high temperatures, almost 1600-1800 °F for burning). Nowadays, propane, natural gas, oils, etc. are used for this purpose.
Moreover, they are equipped with adjustable control systems for monitoring the interior of the furnace so that it automatically shuts down after a cremation process is completed.
When choosing a crematorium, you can request for a tour of the building and find out if the technicians working there are certified. Plus, you can ask for references and copies of their policies.
A crematorium can be a part of a funeral home, chapel, or simply a stand-alone building. It is mostly regulated by the state.
Furthermore, the United States and various other countries discourage cremation of multiple bodies in a cremator. In fact, it is considered illegal.
Hence, most cremators are designed to cremate one body at a time. Cremations of stillborn twins or a stillborn baby along with the mother who died during childbirth, can be regarded as exceptions to the rule.
In a cremator, there is a cremation chamber which comprises two firebrick lined spaces, mostly one on top of the other.
A casket or container preferably prepared from a combustible material is placed in the primary space of the cremation chamber.
The secondary space is meant for the circulation of gases. This smoke passes through intense heat and flames so as to burn the particulate matter. It appears as heat waves when it leaves the chamber and is released in the air through the exhaust system.
Here’s a video giving information on crematorium:
The process of cremating a human body usually takes about one to three hours, depending on factors like the weight of the body, its fat to lean tissue ratio, the type of casket or container in which it is placed, the equipment installed, and so on.
When a cremation begins, the temperature of the secondary space is set at a point (most states require 1600 degrees Fahrenheit) and then the corpse is placed quickly in the primary space through the top door to avoid heat loss. The door, however, cannot be opened until the operating temperature is reached.
During this procedure, the body is actually exposed to column-like flames. A greater portion of the body, though, is vaporized due to intense heat. Plus, the bones become calcified and crumble into pieces.
Crematoriums housing crematories with more than one furnace are required to be careful about the identification of the cremains.
After the incineration, the remains are allowed to cool. Next, the metal objects like dental bridgework, pins, screws, zippers, etc. are removed with the help of a strong magnet and through manual inspection.
Finally, the cremated remains are pulverized into a uniform fine powder. It is transferred to a container or cremation urn and handed over to the designated person.
The crematorium may also arrange for a witnessing service if the relatives and representatives of the deceased request for witnessing the cremation. In fact, a family member can even press the button to initiate the burning process.