Fires from Kitchen Extracts

One of the greatest risks of fire in buildings with public kitchen facilities – restaurants, pubs, cafes and even hotels – comes from fire breaking out in poorly cleaned or maintained extract ventilation systems.

How do kitchen extractor fires start?

There are two ways most of these fires start. The first is when a filter which is overdue for cleaning or changing becomes clogged with grease and oils that are generated in the kitchen. If the filter itself catches fire due to a spark or piece of hot ash being sucked into the extractor fan, it can spread very quickly.

The second scenario is not much different. As no filter can completely prevent greasy smoke from entering extractor ducts, they eventually become coated with a thick film of oily, highly flammable dust. Once a fire takes hold here, it is very difficult to detect or stop.

How much damage can an extractor system fire cause?

The damage from such a fire can be massive, because it is not limited to the extractor system itself. Worse still, the inaccessibility of the ductwork prevents easy fire control. Your entire building could be lost to fire, and your livelihood with it.

Even if the fire is limited to the kitchen, it could destroy your business. Most kitchen fires in pubs or restaurants take six months or more to set right, and a great many such businesses never re-open at all.

How can I best prevent a fire in my extractor system?

The answer is regular cleaning and maintenance. What constitutes ‘regular’ varies from business to business, though.

  • Extractor hoods and filters

Clean and degrease your extractor hood daily, and make cleaning its primary filter a daily task for a reliable employee. Never cook without the filter in place!

  • Extractor ductwork

If you only make light use of the kitchen (no more than 6 hours of cooking per day, such as in a small bed-and-breakfast), you should have your ducts professionally cleaned and degreased at least yearly.

If your kitchen use counts as moderate (between 6 and 12 hours on most days), you should have your ducts serviced twice each year.

If your kitchen is used heavily (more than 12 hours each day), your ductwork should be cleaned at least quarterly – every three months.

Any kitchen doing a great deal of fat frying (chippies in particular) or those that use wood or charcoal fuels may need even more frequent duct cleaning and degreasing to avoid unnecessary risk of fire.

Worse still, failure to clean and maintain your extractor system properly can invalidate your fire insurance. It is difficult enough for a business to overcome a fire and re-open successfully. If poor upkeep and cleaning amount to a breach of applicable Environmental Health regulations, your insurance policy may not protect you at all. The safest thing to do is to contact your insurance provider and ask them if your cleaning and degreasing regime meets their standards. If it isn’t, more than your policy could be at risk!

At Ductbusters we offer a wide range of services to help improve the quality of indoor air within your establishment.

For more information, please call 0800 085 0403

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