Any restaurant owner will tell you that grease fires are one of the greatest threats to the safety of staff, customers, and the building itself. Grease fires can spread rapidly and be incredibly difficult to extinguish.
Not only can it cause structural damage and destroy valuable equipment, but a kitchen fire can also cause injuries and even loss of life.
Fortunately, there are ways that you can prevent grease fires. Practicing the correct safety precautions and equipping your restaurant with the proper safety equipment can significantly increase your chances of avoiding a costly grease fire.
To help you run a safer restaurant, we will explain how to prevent a grease fire and the equipment needed to extinguish a kitchen grease fire if one is started.
As the name suggests, a grease fire is a fire that is fueled by the burning of grease, oil, or fat. When ignited, these fuels burn at extremely high temperatures, spreading rapidly to other flammable materials.
One of the most dangerous features of a grease fire is that you cannot extinguish it with water. Water actually causes the fire to spread, which is why many people end up with severe burns when attempting to put out a grease fire.
As with any type of fire, prevention is always preferable to reaction. Before we explain how to deal with a grease fire, here are some effective tips for preventing grease fires in restaurants.
1. Clean All Kitchen and Ventilation Equipment Regularly
One of the most effective ways to prevent grease fires is to ensure that all cooking surfaces, ventilation hoods, exhaust systems, ducts, and kitchen appliances are cleaned and maintained regularly. When excess grease and debris are allowed to accumulate, the likelihood of a cooking fire rises dramatically.
All staff should be trained on the importance of keeping equipment and workstations clean. Your staff should be given a list of daily cleaning tasks for which they will be held accountable. Beyond routine, daily cleanings, thorough and professional cleanings of all ventilation and exhaust systems should occur at the appropriate times.
2. Do Not Leave Hot Cooking Equipment Unattended
Under no circumstances should hot cooking equipment be left unattended, even if the appliance has been switched off. Not only should it be watched at all times, but proper temperature settings should also be followed to prevent hot oil and grease from reaching its ignition point.
3. Maintain Safe Storage Practices for Flammable Materials
Flammable materials and supplies, like cooking oil, should always be stored safely far from any heat source. Once something has been used, it must be returned to its designated area. It is vital that all staff are trained on the importance of this practice and that they are held accountable if they continue to make errors.
4. Cook Safely
While it may sound obvious, adhering to proper cooking techniques is vital in a commercial kitchen. Always adhere to safe cooking temperatures when dealing with hot oil and fat. You should also avoid overcrowding pans and deep fryers, as this is a common cause of hot grease fires.
Staff should make others aware of what they are doing when dealing with large volumes of highly flammable oil and grease.
5. Ensure All Staff Are Trained and Educated Properly
All kitchen staff must be trained on fire prevention strategies, safe cooking practices, and relevant emergency procedures. It is essential that this training is taken seriously and that it is completed before any newly hired staff are allowed to work in the kitchen.
In addition to the prevention tips discussed above, all restaurants and commercial kitchens should be outfitted with appropriate and well-maintained safety equipment. This should include the following:
All kitchen floors should be covered with non-slip mats. Slips while carrying flammable materials are some of the most common causes of kitchen fires. Staff should also be required to wear non-slip-soled shoes for added safety.
Your restaurant’s non-kitchen areas should have an automatic fire suppression system. If a grease fire erupts in your kitchen, preventing it from spreading into the dining area could save lives.
To prevent water damage from a fire sprinkler system that has misfired or has been accidentally triggered, we highly suggest the Shutgun. This affordable, user-friendly tool was designed to make it easy to shut a sprinkler system off in seconds so you don’t experience unnecessary water damage in your restaurant.
As mentioned, you cannot extinguish grease fires with water. A small grease fire can be extinguished with baking soda, but this isn’t practical in a commercial kitchen. This is where Class K fire extinguishers come in handy.
They are designed explicitly with extinguishing agents that can handle grease and oil fires, so they should be located in easily accessible kitchen areas. Like any fire extinguisher, Class K fire extinguishers also need to be inspected and maintained regularly.
Learn more about the different fire extinguishers and why it is essential to choose the right kind by reading Different Fire Extinguisher Types & Which Type You Need.
Ensuring your kitchen is ventilated correctly can help reduce the kitchen fire risk. These vents help lower temperatures and pull smoke, debris, and grease-laden air from the kitchen.
Preventing grease fires should always be a top priority in any restaurant, commercial kitchen, or food preparation facility. They can be incredibly destructive and costly and threaten the lives of your restaurant’s employees and patrons.
A fire can also ruin your restaurant’s reputation, even if you manage to put it out before it can cause significant fire damage.
By implementing the tips and safety precautions we discussed above, you can safeguard your restaurant.
For more information on protecting your restaurant, we recommend reading What Is Fire Safety & Why Is it Important for Your Business? Learn about valuable fire safety tips and how to protect your business from the dangers of workplace fires.