What is spontaneous combustion?
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines spontaneous combustion as the outbreak of fire without application of heat from an external source. This combustion can occur when flammable matter like oily rags, damp hay, leaves, or coal is stored in bulk. Spontaneous combustion, sometimes referred to as spontaneous ignition, begins when a combustible object is heated to its ignition temperature by a slow oxidation process. Oxidation is a chemical reaction involving the oxygen in the air around us gradually raising the inside temperature of something (like a pile of rags) to the point at which a fire starts. Spontaneous Combustion Can Cause Fires While spontaneous combustion isn’t a common occurrence, it can be disastrous. Spontaneous combustion causes major fire losses each year. One of the most common scenarios is when floors or woodwork are being refinished and stain-soaked rags are left in a heap on the floor. Something as simple as not storing these rags properly can cause major fire damage.
Let’s start with this: Yes, spontaneous combustion due to paranormal or spiritual forces is a myth. It is not real. It’s silly. The spiritualists, who die or nearly die by spontaneous combustion, often smell of good ol’ gasoline. But then on the other hand, consider the following. There have been many, many fires started when combustible materials got hot enough and had enough oxygen around to combust—to start burning. The two classic spontaneous combustion fuels are oily rags and grain dust. People working around the house often get rags full of stuff like paint thinner, varnish, or cleaner for car engine parts on them. This stuff burns like crazy. When a rag is soaked with oily materials, the liquids evaporate and fill spaces like basements and trash cans with fumes: fumes that can burn. Fires start when the fumes get hot. The sun might beat down. Or, a downstairs refrigerator might come on, and the electric motor inside might make just enough of a spark to start the whole place burn
Spontaneous combustion is the occurrence of fire without application of an apparent heat source. In a hot dryer, oxidation of fabrics occurs more rapidly than at ambient temperatures. As oxidation proceeds, heat accumulates on the garments, faster than it can be dissipated. The net accumulation of heat continues until the critical surface temperature is reached. At this point the garments are ignited and burn.
Spontaneous combustion is the burning of a substance or body by the internal development of heat without the application of fire. It not infrequently takes place among heaps of rags, wool and cotton when sodden with oil; hay and straw when damp or moistened with water; and coal in the bunkers of vessels. In the first case, the oil rapidly combines with the oxygen of the air, this being accompanied by great heat. In the second case, the heat is produced by a kind of fermentation; and in the third, by the pyrites of the coal rapidly absorbing and combining with the oxygen of the air. The term is also applied to the extraordinary phenomenon of the human body, which has been told of some people, whereby it is reduced to ashes without the application of fire. It is said to have occurred in the aged and persons that were fat and hard drinkers, but most chemists reject the theory and altogether discredit it.