Managing director of Swiftclean Building Services, Gary Nicholls (pictured right), has appealed for restaurant proprietors to make kitchen extract ductwork cleaning more of a priority, following two London restaurant fires.
In the first, over the August Bank Holiday, in the kitchen of The Wood Oven BBQ Restaurant in George Lane, South Woodford, a pizza chef sustained minor injuries. In the second at a restaurant on Saint Martin’s Lane in Covent Garden just a few days later, the extract system was destroyed across two floors from ground floor to roof level.
Mr Nicholls said: “Both these incidents provide a clear illustration of the cost which can result when essential kitchen extract ductwork is not carried out – both human and financial. The kitchen itself can be otherwise spotless, but if unseen fat, oil and grease build up in the extract ductwork, it can make a simple kitchen fire far worse.
“We urge all fast food outlet proprietors to be diligent in carrying out this cleaning in order to ensure the safety of their employees and the general public. If we can remove the grease that fuels these fires, we can reduce the number of actual fires.”
Mr Nicholls continued: “We were glad to read that the chef at the Wood Oven was not seriously hurt, but dismayed that it had happened at all because reportedly he did suffer a burn and minor smoke inhalation. This sort of fire can be avoided with regular cleaning in compliance with TR/19, the leading industry guidance document on ventilation ductwork hygiene.”
The London Fire Brigade website confirmed that fire investigators had attended the scene at The Wood Oven BBQ Restaurant and said that the fire started when a build-up of fat and oil in the ducting caught alight.
Although the cause of the fire at St Martin’s Lane is under investigation, a spokesperson for the Brigade was quoted as saying, “It looks as though the fire started in the ducting, which is the extraction system used by restaurants. Restaurant and take-away owners should always take care to make sure their extraction systems are kept clean as a build-up of fat and grease within the filters can lead to a fire.”
Swiftclean also advises all restaurant owners to ensure their extraction systems and ducting are kept clean and TR/19 compliant in order to avoid the accumulation of fat which can lead to a fire. “If restaurant owners are not sure if their extract systems are TR/19 compliant, we are happy to give advice; and we have a handy online compliance checker on the Swiftclean website,” added Mr Nicholls.
The Wood Oven BBQ Restaurant is one of a row of commercial premises situated below residential flats and adjoining other businesses in South Woodford. According to local news reports, minor damage was caused to a neighbouring hairdressing business, but fortunately, the residents of the flats above the restaurant were alerted to the fire and evacuated safely. Four fire engines and around twenty firefighters from Walthamstow, Homerton, Chingford and Walthamstow attended the incident.
At the fire in St Martin’s Lane, four fire engines and around 20 firefighters from Soho and Lambeth fire stations attended.
Nicholls further stated, “The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 imposes a duty to control the fire risk posed by kitchen extract systems. Failure to control this risk constitutes breaking the law and fire service inspectors have the power to serve enforcement notices. Such notices can cause brand damage or, in worst cases where it is deemed that there are no adequate risk controls in place and this represents a serious fire risk, can prevent businesses from trading.”