Kitchen fires

Kitchen fires are a real risk in the restaurant business. Last year, Melbourne’s Metropolitan Fire Brigade attended 57 preventable commercial kitchen fires in either a shop, store or office property, with an estimated damage bill of more than $612,000.

Common causes of commercial kitchen fires include inadequate cleaning of extraction systems and other kitchen surfaces, overloading or use of poor quality power boards and incorrectly installed appliances.

The good news for businesses is the risk of these types of fires is dramatically reduced if some simple measures are put in place and correct procedures are followed.

A recent example of a preventable fire attended by the MFB occurred in November 2016 where crews were called to a kitchen fire at a noodle bar in Melbourne’s CBD. Once the blaze was extinguished, firefighters noticed the fire had spread into a wall cavity, unusual for this type of fire.

An investigation was launched by MFB’s specialist fire investigators who discovered that a new waterless pot steamer, in good working order, had been installed in direct contact with the wall, triggering a heat build-up that caused the fire.

Following the investigation, MFB partnered with Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) to implement new safety procedures to prevent similar emergencies. The incident prompted ESV to send a Gas Safety Alert to all licensed gasfitters in Victoria about the specific requirements when installing similar appliances.

Commander Tim Landells, who heads up MFB’s Fire Investigation and Analysis team, said firefighters were always advocating to prevent emergencies and improve safety in the community.

“A firefighter’s work doesn’t end when the fire is put out,” Commander Landells said. “A significant part of our job is preventing and learning from emergencies. In many ways, we measure our success by the incidents that don’t happen. Sharing our observations, expertise and experience is one of the ways we work with the community to create a safer environment for everyone.”

The MFB has some simple recommendations for preventing kitchen fires, including:

  • Ensuring all kitchen appliances are installed by a qualified professional;
  • Installing extra power points to avoid using power boards; and
  • Regular maintenance and cleaning of extraction systems, stovetops, ovens and other cooking surfaces to avoid build-up of fat, oil and other flammable residue that could either ignite a fire or allow it to spread quickly.

Anyone seeking further information regarding fire prevention is urged to go the MFB’s website.

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