Experience shows that the majority of kitchen fires will involve the kitchen exhaust hood or ductwork in the roof.
The Port Office Hotel in Brisbane has reopened its doors after a “devastating” fire ignited in the kitchen and ravaged the building.
The pub’s owners, Nick and Meagan Gregorski, bought the establishment back in 2017, but on January 23, 2019, a fire started in their kitchen.
The fire was tall enough to lick the ceiling, where it reached something too combustible to control, Gregorski explains.
Now the kitchen is open and patrons are being served once again, Nick Gregorski spoke with SmartCompany about insurance pitfalls, rebuilding a dream, and the importance of community.
Rebuilding from the ashes
“We didn’t see what was in the roof, but there was a lot of smoke and water damage,” he adds.
A fire that originates within the kitchen or at the exhaust hood filters can spread into and up the ductwork system, fuelled by the oil and grease within the duct. A fire within the duct can ignite combustible materials outside of the duct, via radiant heat transmission, or can ignite grease that has leaked out of duct seams, spreading the fire in the building.
As a result, the pair were forced to close the pub for weeks.
At the time, most of the disappointment stemmed from the fact the pair had recently renovated the building. In fact, Gregorkski returns to this several times as he speaks to SmartCompany.
“We did a renovation when we first moved in — but we didn’t want to do another one,” he says, laughing a little.
Perhaps the biggest learning from the experience was how to deal with insurance, which Gregorski admits is an ongoing lesson.
“It’s been a very stressful time. We’re still fighting with insurance companies.
“We may have been a bit naive on a couple of things,” he admits.
The steepest learning curve, however, came from what he calls “grey areas”.
“It’s very complex. I’ve been given five different sums for one area of the insurance, which I find very bizarre.”
Luckily, Gregorski’s saving grace came in the form of an insurance advisory, which helped him gather the correct information and spoke with insurance companies on his behalf.
“I wish I had these people on board from day one to help guide me through the pitfalls.”
Fire statistics from Australia, the UK and the US show that fires in restaurants predominately occur in kitchens. The ignition of cooking materials accounts for almost half of all commercial kitchen fires and almost all of these (90 per cent) get into the kitchen hood exhaust system. Many restaurants never re-open after suffering a fire loss. Insurance policies may exclude claims related to uncleaned or grease-laden exhaust ducts. Insurers are aware of these fire risks – are you?
For all the disappointments and troubles of the last year, Gregorski credits the community for helping to keep hope alive.
“Did we consider walking away? Definitely.
“However, this is our life. What would we do besides this?
“We’d have to find another pub — one that might not be as good as this.
“It’d be a shame for us not to be here,” he says.
The community has had a history of helping the Port Office Hotel throughout the years. The most memorable in recent history being the Queensland floods of 2011, when people banded together to barricade the pub with sandbags.
“The community reacted amazingly. Anyone who could help did.”
He concedes, however, that in this scenario, the practicalities of community help was limited. Compared to floods, fires are less about prevention and more about reaction.
“You don’t want to put a lot of people in danger,” he explains.
“With insurance, there’s not much you can do but leave it to the professionals.”
The cashflow is not what it was before the fire, he says, but it’s getting there.
“My smile’s back. We’re happy with our new restaurant and kitchen.
“This is just a bit of a blip on our journey,” he adds.
For more on the history of this story, please click HERE.
The single most important thing you can do to keep your systems safe is to regularly inspect and keep the system free from grease. If you think your kitchen exhaust hood ventilation system does not meet current standards or represents a fire risk, you should contact SHEPHERD FILTERS to arrange an obligation-free fire risk assessment.