The United States Fire Administration reports that between 2007 and 2009, an estimated 5,900 restaurant building fires occurred in the U.S. causing 75 injuries and $172 million in property loss. The good news is that there were no fire-related deaths, although the potential exists. The National Fire Incident Reporting System categorizes building fires into two severity classes 1) confined fires, which are confined to certain objects or types of equipment and 2) nonconfined.
Confined fires account for about 57% of restaurant fires with nonconfined fires accounting for the remaining 43% of restaurant fires.
When do restaurant fires occur? The highest frequency is during the late morning hours, between 10 and 11 a.m.
What’s the primary cause of restaurant fires? This won’t surprise you, cooking, is the leading cause of restaurant fires. The vast majority (91%) of these fires are small confined fires a small amount of damage. Electrical malfunctions and heating systems are the next highest cause of restaurant fires, both at 8%. The risk with electrical fires is that they spread and are typically large, nonconfined fires. Beyond electrical fires, the other common causes of fire are carelessness or other unintentional actions and equipment mis-operations and failures.
Where do nonconfined fires start? Primarily in cooking areas and kitchens (41%) and less frequently on the roof (6%) and in walls (6%).
How do nonconfined fires start? Heat from powered equipment is the leading cause of these types of fires, which includes electrical arcing and radiated or conducted heat from running equipment. The most common equipment to ignite fires are deep fryers (9%), ranges (7%) and other kitchen cooking equipment (5%).
What are the contributing factors to igniting a nonconfined fire? The top three factors are:
- Misuse of product or material (28%)
- Electrical Failure, malfunction (27%)
- Operational deficiency (23%)
What can be done to reduce fire risk?
- Staff training and awareness to keep combustible materials away from heat sources.
- Fire extinguishers strategically located and staff trained to use them.
- Install alert or suppression systems to monitor heat and smoke to notify as soon as possible. Automatic extinguishment systems, such as sprinklers and hood systems.
- Safe storage practices – store away from heat sources/ductwork, keep exits clear.
Click here to review Westfield Insurance’s Fire Prevention Checklist for Restaurants to see how you stack up on preventing fires at your restaurant.
Kris Hawk is the business development leader for corporate hospitality at Westfield Insurance. She develops and implements marketing plans for Westfield Country Club, Blair Conference Center, corporate dining and Westfield Inn.
Review Westfield Insurance’s Fire Prevention Checklist for Restaurants to see how you stack up on preventing fires at your restaurant.