This study aims to develop a methodology for the thermal characterization of MSWI fly ash. We performed TGA–DTA and component variation analysis, microstructure transfer of sintered fly ash, as well as leaching toxicity, volatilization ratio and specification transformation of heavy metals as a function of temperature. It is found that content of crystal phases first increases between room temperature and 800 °C and then decreases between 800 °C and 1200 °C, while that of glass phases registers a reverse trend. Fly ash registers a SiO2–Al2O3–metal oxides system and its content of glass phases is around 57%. Increase of sintering temperature between 600 °C and 1200 °C is conducive to the reduction of soluble As, Cd, Cu, Hg, Pb, Ni and Zn, while content of soluble Cr increases as temperature rises from 800 °C to 1200 °C.