Grease fires are one of the main culprits that lead to more than $200 million in property damage annually.
Unsurprisingly, the most common cause of major fires in restaurants are grease fires. Cooking flames and flammable kitchen materials such as grease build-up over time, which increases the risk for potential fires to break out.
According to a 2017 report by the National Fire Protection Association, food — including cooking oil — were the items first ignited in 43 percent of restaurant fires. Moreover, fire departments across America responded to an average of 8,240 structure fires at eating and drinking establishments each year between 2012 and 2016. These fires resulted in two civilian deaths each year on average, along with 115 injuries and $246 million in property damage.
Grease fires spread when flames get into the kitchen’s duct-work and exhaust system, the vents and fans behind ovens and stoves that extract flammable vapours and smoke and are typically home to grease build-up.
Oven hoods, the stainless steel appliances directly above stoves that catch contaminated cooking air and feed it into the exhaust system, also pose a substantial fire risk if not adequately cleaned and maintained. Cooks and kitchen porters are usually responsible for cleaning these nightly, but sometimes the chore gets skipped. More in-depth cleaning, which is necessary on a regular basis for proper hood operation, is something restaurant owners might be tempted to skip given the expense, which can start at $500 per cleaning and increase in price for larger restaurants with complex networks of equipment.
“It can definitely be costly for a restaurant,” says Alex Garrote, a Cleveland, Ohio-based commercial kitchen sales executive with fire safety systems provider Johnson Controls and former fire department EMT. “It’s just one of those things. Hood cleaning has to happen professionally, twice a year.”
It doesn’t have to be this way however. Such costs can be dramatically reduced with the Shepherd Filters solution. Customers that use Shepherd Filters have seen their hood cleaning schedule reduce to an annual spot check, making them extremely happy as they are not only reducing costs, they are reducing their fire risk.
In a business with so many risks and unknowns, fire is a liability many chefs and restaurateurs sometimes forget about — until it’s too late. For more on how and why fires start in restaurants, and the measures that can be taken to prevent such disasters, click here.