I mentioned this phenomena on my 20/20 interview.

I mentioned the Germany cremation fire that recently occurred in a post a few months back.

And now this news headline out of Austria: “Dead obese woman had so much body fat she set the building on fire during her cremation”.

I’m not a fan of macabre, but this news article highlights more than the grotesque … it also highlights the growing difficulty the funeral industry is having as we adapt to the every growing obesity epidemic.

As you may realize, when a morbidly obese person is cremated, there’s a danger of what can only be called (in layman’s terms) a “grease fire.”  In the past — especially in America — such fires have prompted crematoriums to purchase larger retorts (a retort is the “oven”) and to use different methods of cremating morbidly obese persons.

Despite such responses by crematoriums, morbid obesity is a growing problem in first-world counties.  A recent survey shows that 63% of Americans are either overweight or obese. That percentage has stayed relatively steady over the past couple years.

Yet, the percentage of morbidly obese persons (those who are 100 pounds over a healthy weight) has doubled every five years.

And as more and more people become morbidly obese, crematoriums — despite their efforts to accommodate this epidemic — are still behind the curve, especially the crematoriums in smaller countries which seem to be slower to adapt.

And so we have this out of Austria:

Firemen in the southern city of Graz were covered in thick sticky soot as they tried to prevent the blaze from taking hold of the building.

The case has been widely reported in Austrian media, including in the ORF – the country’s equivalent of our BBC – and has ignited calls for a weight limit on bodies to protect against future fires.

Firemen whose clothing was left covered with a layer of greasy black soot were snapped as they tackled the difficult to extinguish blaze in special breathing gear to avoid breathing in the fumes.

In the end they had to bring the fire under control by sending a blast of water in through the vents used to clear the filter. Repair work took several days during which time the crematorium was out of action.

Firemen said that after reports of similar problems at other cemeteries not only in Austria but also in Switzerland, officials were now are considering a ban on larger bodies.

And now for the picture of those greased covered fireman:


So … what would you do if you were in the Austrian government?

Would you ban larger bodies?

Or …

Would you accommodate larger bodies by increasing the size of the retorts?