Current affairs

related fires are statistically the third most likely cause of large fires, also accounting for nearly 10% of all large loss fires. Meanwhile, fires involving restaurants and cafes represent some 42% of all fires within the food and drink sector put together – no small matter. So in this context, it is clearly important to maintain good management of the cooking equipment and extraction ducting systems involved, where fires can always occur.

Timing issues

An important factor is the timing of the fires themselves, given the almost doubled occurrence between midnight and 6am for all food and drink establishments (at 43%), versus the earlier period of 6pm to midnight (24%). Other restaurants and cafes are also more susceptible to fires breaking out between midnight and 6am (35%), versus the evening trade time of 6pm to midnight (22%). Out on the ground, commonalities related to these timing issues were also causing significant concern – including the important positioning of kitchens at ground or basement level within buildings, together with their related ductwork for extraction purposes. In practice, this exposes occupants of buildings, such as hotels, to risks from fires spreading upwards at especially vulnerable times of night. The reality is that with kitchen staff vacating premises at the end of their evening shift, dormant fire conditions can take hold unobserved/unchecked. The widespread use of frying and grilling appliances, woks, tilting frying pans, cookers,

ranges, griddle plates and industrial venting systems, combined with flammable materials such as cooking oil, leaves this equipment prone to the build up of fat and grease deposits within extraction canopy systems, filters and ducting pipework. These are often routed externally via roofing areas and other vulnerable sections of property. A common problem is posed by the often inaccessible, grease laden sections of extract ducting, fans and other filtration plant, particularly in view of their structural importance within many buildings. For example, an accidental fire originating within a Chinese takeaway in Newport, South Wales, spread upwards through a two storey mixed commercial and residential premises, leading to a partial roof collapse in April 2017. Other similar incident examples include a

2017 kitchen fire in a student accommodation block in central Cambridge, which started in an extractor fan and subsequently spread into the roof void. Additionally, in September 2017, a fire in a Bedford restaurant’s deep fat fryer spread to ducting running through the building and the roof of this multi storey property, as well as affecting flats situated above the restaurant. Meanwhile, in January 2018, a fire that started in the cooking extraction system of a Basingstoke shopping centre restaurant led to firefighters being called out at 6.25am; while a February 2018 blaze at a fish and chip shop in Wootton, Isle of Wight, was blamed on a fire that subsequently spread to the extraction system installed at the premises.



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