It only takes two millimetres of kitchen grease build-up in your extraction system to pose a severe fire risk, and a grease fire can burn through a typical fast-food style restaurant in as little as five minutes.
The Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating indicates that the ignition of cooking materials (i.e. kitchen grease) accounts for almost half of all commercial kitchen fires in Australia, the UK, and the US.
According to a four-year study by the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association in the US, there were 7640 structural fires in foodservice establishments, resulting in more than $246 million in property damage and more than 108 civilian fire injuries.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports on average, a fire in a commercial kitchen will result in an average loss of $23,000. For about 43 per cent of those restaurants, that fire caused a total loss, forcing the restaurant to shut its doors. Kitchen grease and oil were the leading fuel sources, causing almost 70% of all restaurant structural fires.
Yet a simple (but often ignored) solution lies readily at hand.
Regular checks, maintenance, and extraction system and filter cleaning is the single most effective method of reducing your risk of fire.
In the US, fire, health, and insurance inspectors loosely enforce the codes that do exist, according Mike Creamer, who is the manager of Florida-based Clean Hoods Express.
“The fire code specifies at least a quarterly or semi-annual cleaning. Inspectors show up every year or more. And even then it’s a warning to get a current hood system cleaning. There are no fines, no enforcement. Even insurance companies don’t require regular cleaning as a prerequisite for coverage.”
Creamer believes significant requirements should be implemented for restaurants to keep their food and beverage licenses and their insurance.
“If a restaurant isn’t in compliance with basic life safety they shouldn’t be allowed to open.”
“We don’t need more regulation, we need to enforce the current code. This would protect the customers, kitchen staff and firefighters while saving hundreds of millions of dollars currently being lost to avoidable fires.”
How to Prevent Kitchen Grease Build-Up Long-Term
This is a viewpoint that Jeremy Kronk, Managing Director of Shepherd Filters strongly agrees with. Stricter enforcement coupled with easy to understand practices are key.
The more commercial kitchen operators understand and appreciate the functions and maintenance requirements of their kitchen extraction systems, the safer the industry will be.
Preventative maintenance has also come a long way in the past several years, with solutions that can now help commercial kitchen operators manage kitchen grease at the source – the kitchen grease filters.
“Traditional metal kitchen grease filters and exhaust ducts need to be cleaned on a regular basis, which can be costly – many commercial kitchens would have to do their grease filter cleaning nightly or weekly and routine kitchen hood cleaning is performed every three to six or 12 months, amounting to large labour and contractor costs. However, Shepherd Filters provide an easy and cost-effective solution, ensuring kitchen exhaust systems stay cleaner for longer. The wool filters are able to be replaced in seconds and only when necessary,” Jeremy said.
Installing Shepherd Filters eliminates the guesswork as to whether the exhaust system is dirty and a fire risk. A clean system protected by these disposable kitchen grease filters will ensure that your business is compliant and able to benefit financially with reductions to:
- Labour/contractor costs associated with metal grease filters and exhaust systems
- The frequency and complexity of kitchen duct cleans
- Water usage and harsh chemicals otherwise needed to maintain filters; and
- Maintenance and utility costs thanks to cleaner and more efficient rooftop fans, HVAC & other extraction equipment.
Jeremy is now part of the revision process for key guidelines relating to kitchen exhaust ventilation in Australia, bringing an end to years of confusion, and reducing the risk of kitchen fires.