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How The Cremation Process Works

cremation ashesHuman civilization has been using cremation as a method of final disposition of a deceased person's remains for thousand of years. Cremation dates to at least 20,000 years ago in the archaeological record with the Mungo Lady, the remains of a partly cremated body found at Mungo Lake, Australia.

In the beginning the process of cremation was somewhat primitive, but today the process has been infused with technology. Modern cremators have adjustable-control systems that monitor the furnace during cremation. These systems automatically monitor the interior to tell when the cremation process is complete, after which the furnace automatically shuts down. The time required for cremation varies from body to body, and, in modern furnaces, the process may be completed in a few hours.

Preparation of the Body

Before the cremation of a deceased person can begin, a funeral director must obtain written authorization. This usually comes in the form of a document, provided by the funeral home, from the decedent's closest surviving relatives.

Before the cremation is performed, the funeral director will remove any items that are not to be cremated with the body. This can include items such as jewelry. If the decedent had a pacemaker, it will be removed as well for safety. The body is not required to be embalmed if the family chooses not to have a public viewing of the deceased at a memorial service.

The decedent's remains are then placed in a cremation casket. This usually made of wood, or more often cardboard in order to reduce cost. These containers are designed to readily burn during the cremation process.

An identification tag is placed in the container along with the remains so they can be positively identified after cremation process is completed. This is a very important step to ensure the proper remains are returned to the family.

The Cremation

The cremation container or the casket containing the decedent's body is then placed in the cremation chamber. The chamber, referred to as the retort, is lined with fire resistant bricks on the walls and ceiling. The floor is made from a special masonry compound formulated specifically to withstand extremely high temperatures. Once the body is in, the chamber door is closed.

The operator of the crematory then starts the furnace which normally goes through a warm up cycle before the main burning begins. Once the proper temperature has been achieved, the main burner ignites starting the process of incinerating the body. Temperatures within the furnace often reach the 1800°F - 2000°F range. The burners within a cremator are fueled by either natural gas or propane.

Normally it takes about 1-1/2 to 2 hours for the remains to be completely reduced to just the bone fragments by cremation. Some cremation furnaces, especially the older ones, may require a little more time.

Processing the Ashes

Once the remains have been completely incinerated, a cool down period of 30 minutes to an hour is required before the bone fragments can be handled for further processing. After the appropriate time has passed, the cremated remains and bone fragments are removed from the cremation chamber and placed on a table or work area. Any metal left over from medical procedures the decedent may have had in their lifetime is removed.

The bone fragments are then further processed by placing them in a special processor. This processor uses mechanical force to pulverizes the bone fragments to a fine powder called cremains or more commonly referred to as the ashes.

The ashes are then placed in a plastic bag within a temporary cremation container or an urn provided one is furnished to the crematory. The ashes are then returned to the family.

Direct Cremation

$935

  • Transportation of deceased
  • Basic services of Funeral Director and Staff
  • Cremation
  • Alternative container
  • A temporary container

Direct Burial

$935

  • Transportation of deceased
  • Basic services of Funeral Director and Staff
  • Arrangements and transportation to the cemetery
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