Spring 1990 • Vol. XII No. 2 |

Lost in the Fire

This localization of terrific heat in a body, yet not extending to flammable objects nearby, is the great mystery of SHC—Spontaneous Human Combustion. VINCENT GADDIS, Mysterious Fires and Lights i. A Starter Kit When it's a storage shed, garage, nightmare of an attic or one more derelict warehouse lit up in the night and authorities can't find any neighborhood kid with his pocket full of matches and a bad idea, we might have to settle for the textbook explanation: rags and gasoline, the invariably poor ventilation, heat gradually building to the delicate point of ignition and suddenly it's a plausible last resort: spontaneous combustion. The smallest leap of faith should tell us it can happen this way too: people burn, it's humanly possible and for no good reason experts can agree on, burn in minutes from the inside out with something so hotit takes people who burn for a living, professionals at their incinerators, hours of patient stoking to achieve that degree of

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