A badly burned body is typically found in this position which is characterized by bent elbows, knees, hip and neck, with the hands clutched into a fist. This is because the fire affects the tissues and muscles in certain ways, shortening and stiffening them. The body has many different tissues, each with a different structure and density. Tendons, muscles, skin, bone are destroyed by fire at different rates. Because of this phenomenon a body that has been in a fire leaves certain artifacts. One of the first tasks of a medical legal investigator is to distinguish between peri-mortem trauma and fire-related artifacts.
In a fire death may times the epidermis of the fingers separates from the inner layers of the skin. The fire causes this condition but in some cases does not incinerate the hand because of position or some other reason. A pathologist or investigator can excise this outer layer of skin and place it on their own gloved finger of thumb and get very good thumb or fingerprints. This process is also often used in drowning case for identification purposes.
A commercial cremation chamber is similar to a large pizza oven. The walls of the oven are brick-lined and the chamber can be heated up to approximately 1800-2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of EPA requirements there is a second lower chamber that incinerates the smoke from the first chamber. This process makes the smoke coming out of the chamber much cleaner. It can take several hours for the process and the cooling of the remaining ashes. Then remaining bone and ash is then sent through a “cremulator” which crushes any larger ash into a fine powder. In Pennsylvania and other states cremation permission must be given by the Coroner or the Medical Examiner for this process to take place. This is because there is little evidence left from commercially cremated remains.