According to the National Fire Protection Association or NFPA, commercial kitchen fires cause a lot of damage. On average, fire departments respond to 7,000 fires in eating and drinking establishments. Over half of these fires start in the kitchen and are caused by cooking equipment. These fires cause massive property damage each year, averaging over $200 million a year.
The worst part, is these fires cause hundreds of injuries and multiple deaths a year. The truth is, these fires are preventable. Commercial kitchen fires are prevented through simple design, equipment and maintenance that many overlook. It is important to know the dangers, and how to control them in a commercial kitchen.
1) The Fryers
The most obvious danger in kitchens are fryers. These are essentially a container of fuel for a fire, the cooking oils. A simple safety setup is having all fryers a safe distance from open flames. The minimum is 16 inches. This might not be possible for all commercial kitchens. If this is the case, a wall, made of noncombustible material, should separate fryers from open flames.
When buying a fryer, it is important to buy one equipped with an automatic shut off valve for the fuel. In case a fire does start, the fuel won't feed the fire. These all need considered when buying a commercial fryer.
2) The Oven
After the fryer, the oven is the next hazard for most kitchens. Not only is it used regularly for any baking or roasting, there are open flames. However, it isn't hard to prevent fires with a commercial oven. First, make sure it is made of noncombustible material. Most commercial ovens are made of proper materials. Though it doesn't hurt to double check and update if required.
Next, the placement of the oven is important. With heavy use, any commercial oven produces a lot of heat. Many kitchens have the oven and open flames going non-stop through a day. Make sure the oven isn't near too much other equipment to avoid heat transfer. This is a problem with older commercial kitchens. However, it is important to consider for fire prevention.
Finally, cleaning ovens regularly prevents fires. A lot of people hate this part of the job. It isn't just dirty; it is time consuming. This is required for safety. Proper cleaning removes any buildup in the oven. A lot of fires started in the oven are due to this buildup.
3) The Hood and Ventilation
The National Fire Protection Association has standards for Hoods and Ventilation Systems. This guide is available free online. It is important to know these guidelines and follow them.
It is required to have an exhaust hood over all cooking equipment. The hood is required to be made of sturdy noncombustible material, usually steel. Like the oven, it needs regular cleaning and maintenance to prevent buildup. These hoods are connected to a ventilation system leading outside. The ventilation system requires regular maintenance and cleaning as well.
An important part of the system is grease filters. These filters need proper installation and maintenance. It is important they are easily removed for cleaning. The filters should drain into a noncombustible container which needs emptied regularly.
4) Fire Extinguishers
Every commercial kitchen requires two fire extinguishers for safety and prevention. A standard Class ABC extinguisher handles most small commercial fires. A Class K fire extinguisher handles small grease fires. The Class K suppresses the grease fire without splashing which sometimes causes a fire to spread.
It is important to have these within ten feet of cooking equipment. Obviously, they require regular testing. All the staff in an establishment need training in how to use fire extinguishers properly.
5) The Trash Can
Anyone who works in a commercial kitchen knows how fast trash cans are filled. These are important for preventing fires as well. Trash cans made of noncombustible materials are the best. It is important to empty regularly to avoid buildup of combustible material. It is also good if they have sturdy lids to keep contents from becoming fuel for a fire.
Commercial Kitchen fires are dangerous and cause a lot of damage. It is important to realize that the majority are preventable. Following basic guidelines about equipment setup and maintenance is the key. Fires are still going to happen. However, following guidelines lessens that chance, and reduces the impact if they happen.