Kitchen exhaust hood and ductwork systems are designed to catch cooking vapors and carry them out of the building.
But what happens if these kitchen exhaust systems are heavily laden with highly flammable particulate matter and grease residue? You got it. Fire. Everything can go up in flames.
Grease is the Primary Culprit
How can airborne grease become a commercial kitchen’s number one enemy?
The act of cooking creates a number of effluents such as grease, moisture, and smoke.
When the ventilation fan is turned on, these airborne particulates get carried up through the exhaust hood, pass the filters, and down the ductwork.
Over time, grease builds up throughout the exhaust system and coats everything. These dangerous conditions are at the root of most kitchen fires.
All it takes is one cooking flame to flare up and the overhead filters can ignite into flames.
What makes this particularly dangerous is the exhaust fan will draw more air into the duct system which helps spread the fire further down the exhaust ducts.
Add in the grease residue acting as extra fuel, and soon you will have someone running into your restaurant yelling that there is a fire on your roof.
Regular Cleaning is Your Best Defense
A poorly cleaned kitchen exhaust system is at the core of these grease fires. Some sources report that 21% of all commercial kitchen fires are caused by dirty, grease-filled exhaust systems.
Routine cleaning of the entire exhaust system should be a regular occurrence in the commercial kitchen and is an essential component of fire prevention.
This includes the exhaust fans, grease baffle filters, kitchen hoods, ductwork and other components of the exhaust system that may be heavily contaminated with combustible grease or sludge.
Here are some suggestions for scheduling a regular cleaning program:
- Hand clean and degrease all surfaces that are used for cooking
- Clean other surfaces like back splash walls, trays, and floors
- Pay special attention to hood filters over cooking grills and woks
- Scrub and degrease floors with an effective detergent
- Remove and thoroughly clean all remaining filters
Walk and do a visual inspection of the kitchen and exhaust system to ensure that the daily and weekly routine cleanings are being carried out
Calling in the Experts
When it comes to thoroughly cleaning and degreasing the entire exhaust system, especially the ductwork, you will need to call in the experts on a regular basis.
Seek out expert cleaning companies who specialize in cleaning commercial kitchen exhaust systems and have a solid reputation in the community.
It is important that you ask for references as there are many sub-standard companies who do a careless job.
They will offer recommendations on how frequent your exhaust system should be serviced.
The type and volume of cooking will dictate how often it should be thoroughly cleaned to reduce the likelihood of grease fires.
For example, high-volume restaurants that do considerable frying and charbroiling will need service every three months.
However, restaurants that have less volume may only need extensive cleaning every six months.
A solid prevention program will go a long way in reducing the incidence of kitchen exhaust fires at your restaurant.