The National Fire Chiefs Council is running a campaign this month aimed at encouraging people to think about the fire risks associated with cooking. The dangers may seem obvious but, as with any activity we do on a regular basis, it’s easy to become just a little complacent about it sometimes. The key messages of the campaign are targeted at cooking in the home, and aims to reduce incidents like this recent fire caused by oil overheating. It also highlights fire risks particularly associated with this time of year, like outdoor events and BBQs. But cooking fires are just as much of a risk in other kitchen settings too. Last month London’s West End was disrupted when this fire broke out in a Michelin-starred restaurant (pictured above). Eight fire engines and sixty firefighters were needed to put out the fire which had spread through the ground floor kitchen and the ducting which ran up to roof level. Manchester’s oldest Italian restaurant, Don Giovanni, was forced to close for over four weeks after a fire last August. The restaurant had hoped to reopen quickly after the blaze, but with the damage turning out to be more extensive than initially realised, it lost over a month’s worth of business. And it’s not only restaurants that can be affected by fire either. Industrial kitchens in food production companies like this bakery in Bolton are every bit as vulnerable too. A fire broke out in a cooker, resulting in a blaze that took 9 hours to extinguish and that caused considerable damage within the cooker and to the immediate area surrounding it. Identifying the fire hazards in a commercial kitchen Fire needs fuel, heat and oxygen to ignite and then to become established. So it’s no surprise that commercial kitchen environments are highly hazardous. Some of the risks are obvious like a dirty oven or a large commercial hob covered in grease. Overheating oil or fat is a well-known hazard and one that could easily occur in a hectic kitchen environment. But sometimes the danger is not always so visible. One significant problem comes from the ducting. Grease and oil deposits can quickly build up into a highly flammable coating within the extraction ductwork. Yet because it’s completely out of sight, the level of risk might not be fully realised. The risk might be further increased if the ducting passes through other parts of a building – so if a fire ignites, it has a very straightforward passage enabling it to spread exceptionally quickly. Minimising and managing the fire risks If you are responsible for a commercial kitchen, remember it’s vital to get grease extraction systems and associated ducting cleaned out properly by trained professionals with suitable equipment that reaches even the most difficult-to-access parts of the ducting. Electrical equipment must be well-maintained, and repaired if there are any signs of problems. Ensure employees know how to use kitchen equipment safely to reduce fire risks and are aware of the hazards present in the commercial kitchen environment. If a fire did break out, you must have the right kinds of fire extinguishers available. There are several types applicable to the kitchen environment. A fire blanket may be effective in extinguishing a very small fire, like a pan fire, but in a commercial kitchen other extinguishers will be needed. They’ll include wet chemical fire extinguishers designed specifically to deal with cooking oil and fat fires. It goes without saying that effective detection systems are absolutely vital too and could include suppression systems which automatically detect fire and release a wet chemical agent to quickly put it out. Make sure all fire detection and fire fighting equipment is correctly maintained and located appropriately. Train staff so they are aware of what to do in the event of fire; they need to know how to select and use the right fire extinguisher, and how to quickly raise the alarm and evacuate the premises if necessary. Improving fire safety in your commercial kitchen Commercial kitchens are complex areas in terms of fire management but to protect your business, employees and customers it’s crucial you have put the right measures in place.  If you need help establishing what measures are required, or need to review your existing arrangements to make sure they are adequate, then please contact us for some advice.