Sequoyah County, Oklahoma officials believe that 65-year-old Danny Vanzandt likely died from spontaneous human combustion after they found his burned body in his home but could find no other fire damage or evidence of accelerant use (temperatures in excess of 3,000 degrees would be required to burn the body to ashes). The Tulsa, Oklahoma man was found after neighbors noticed smoke coming from his home. Fireman arrived and attempted to put out what they initially thought was a pile of trash. Soon they realized that the “pile of trash” was a human body. Nothing else in the house had been burned, including the floor beneath the body, and there were no signs of an accelerant being used in the fire.
Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart told reporters:
“This is very bizarre. You’re thinking someone poured something on him, but there was no fire source. ‘The body was burned and it was incinerated. I think there is only about 200 cases (of spontaneous combustion) worldwide.”
Authorities noted that Mr. Vanzandt had a history of heavy drinking and smoking.
Spontaneous combustion, or “wick effect”, theorizes that the human body can become what is essentially an “inside out candle”. The person’s clothing act as the wick while the body’s fat acts as a flammable substance that fuels the fire. In such instances, the body takes around 5 hours to to burn to ashes. Often the victims are elderly or known alcoholics. External sources such as cigarettes or static electricity are believed to act as the “spark” that ignites the fire.