Commercial Kitchen Fires can cause extensive damage if equipment is not properly maintained and protected

JENSEN HUGHES Engineers are experts in the design and maintenance of restaurant fire suppression systems and are familiar with all aspects of both NFPA 17A and NFPA 96. JENSEN HUGHES has years of experience identifying design deficiencies and/or code compliance issues during forensic investigations of restaurant fires. Our personnel are also experts in cooking appliances and associated failures that could lead to a fire.

Cooking Appliance FailurePicture_Section1 - Sevices_Fornesic_Commercial Kitchen Fire Investigations

Fires in commercial cooking equipment occur relatively frequently. A majority of these fires originate on the cooking surface(s) and spread into the hood and exhaust duct system due to grease accumulation within these devices. HAI personnel have the capabilities to determine if a failure in a cooking appliance caused the fire.

Maintenance Deficiencies

Picture_Section2 - Sevices_Fornesic_Commercial Kitchen Fire InvestigationsThe requirements for the hood and ductwork are covered under NFPA 96 “Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations”. As stated in this document, the hood and ductwork needs to be cleaned at least quarterly to prevent the accumulation of grease within these devices. In many cases, the cleaning companies have trouble accessing all areas within the duct preventing them for doing a thorough job. The quality of the cleaning can also be a factor. Filter type, duct construction and separation distances are also typical problems observed through the industry. Many of these restaurants have been in business for many years and their exhaust systems modified numerous times but they are typically not routinely inspected for code compliance.

Failure of Suppression SystemPicture_Section3 - Sevices_Fornesic_Commercial Kitchen Fire Investigations

A significant number of these fires are not extinguished by the installed fire protection system due to deficiencies in the design and/or installation. If the system fails to extinguish the fire, the fire then spreads to the restaurant structure typically resulting in significant damage and in many cases total loss of the restaurant. Previously, most restaurant kitchens were protected with local application, dry chemical extinguishing systems. However, due to the use of new cooking oils and the use of higher temperatures in the cooking process, dry chemical extinguishing systems are no adequate for this application (due to their lack of cooling).

Additionally, changes in the hazard, such as the layout of the equipment being protected can affect the system’s ability to extinguish a fire. As a result, the inspection/maintenance company should assess whether the system is code compliant and that the design meets the listed parameters every time maintenance is performed on the system (semi-annual maintenance is required for these systems). Non compliant system designs are a leading factor in restaurant fire losses.

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