Extraction canopy systems that are not periodically inspected, maintained or cleaned will be subject to a build-up of oil, grease and other materials within the duct, fan, filters, gutters, and on the internal surfaces of the hood. Systems that are not properly maintained present a higher risk of a significant fire event.
Chad Boutte was getting ready to leave for work Wednesday morning when he smelled the fire, according to The Advocate.
As he rushed to get his pets out of his apartment, firefighters were rushing toward the building next door on Decatur Street, where a blaze had started in the kitchen of Fiorella’s Cafe, sending smoke billowing through the French Quarter.
Firefighters fought the blaze for about an hour before bringing it under control, according to Fire Department Superintendent Timothy McConnell.
There were no injuries, and the fire did not spread to adjacent structures, McConnell said, but it did cause “pretty extensive damage” inside the restaurant and smoke damage to the adjoining buildings.
One of the restaurant’s owners told firefighters the fire began in the kitchen, where two employees were cooking.
An oven hood meant to suppress the threat of fires was not operating. Investigators were trying to figure out why the device malfunctioned, McConnell said.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been waiting for this to happen,” said Boutte, the neighbour. “It’s been a time bomb waiting to explode, and it finally happened.”
Boutte said he has lived next door to the restaurant for years and has worried about the possibility of a fire because of what he called poor upkeep.
Guy Olano, a businessman with a stake in several restaurants and French Quarter strip clubs, also owns Fiorella’s. His attorney, Julie Quinn, called the fire “extremely unfortunate.”
“I’d certainly dispute that,” she said when asked whether poor upkeep helped contribute to the fire. “I know it’s difficult when commercial and residential co-exist. There’s always tensions, and particularly when you have buildings from the 1800s.”
Flammable materials such as cooking oil help build up fat and grease deposits within extraction canopy systems, filters and ducting pipework – which often routes externally via roofing areas and other vulnerable sections of a property. The often inaccessible, grease-laden sections of extraction canopy ducting, fans etc. pose a common problem, particularly in view of its structural importance within many buildings.
Insurers do not approve of insufficient or incorrect extraction canopy systems being used to protect kitchens against fire, and are concerned to know if an these systems have been appropriately specified, installed and properly maintained.
When a cafe or restaurant is located in a larger building or complex, such as a hotel, hospital, mall, airport or multi-storey residential development, the fire hazard risks increase exponentially.
In some cases, a building owner and a building tenant will have split responsibilities for system maintenance and cleaning, because the hood and filter are located within the tenancy, and the exhaust duct and fan are located in a common or core building area. In these circumstances, the scheduled maintenance programs should be coordinated and the individual responsibilities made explicitly clear. Ultimately it is the building owner that holds the regulatory responsibility for fire safety at the premises.
If you think your kitchen extraction canopy system or represents a fire risk or does not meet current standards, you can contact us to arrange a no-obligation assessment.