London Restaurant Fire Caused by Kitchen Grease Build-Up

An accidental fire in a London restaurant that was sparked by a build-up of grease in the kitchen’s extraction system resulted in severe structural damage. The extractor in the El Vaquero restaurant on Whetstone High Street caught fire on Sunday morning, after cooking set light to the grease and fat deposits that had accumulated in the ducting.

The four different fire crews in attendance had to cut out large parts of the ductwork within the extractor to discover the source of the fire. The building also suffered damage to part of the roof, and more than 60 people had to be evacuated from the area.

A spokesperson from the London Fire Brigade released a statement, saying that ‘restaurant and takeaway owners should always take care to make sure their extraction systems are kept clean as a buildup [sic] of fat and grease within the filters can lead to a fire.’

While fortunately there was no loss of life and no one was seriously injured, this fire highlights the need for kitchen operators to ensure that their extraction systems are regularly cleaned and kept free of grease and deposits.

Insurers are increasingly asking for evidence of regular extractor cleaning from their catering clients as a condition for granting a policy or paying out claims, and their reason for doing so is based on the guidance laid out in Section 7 of HVCA TR19, which provides advice on best practice for deep cleaning of kitchen extract systems:

  • Heavy-use kitchens (between 12 and 16 hours a day): Every 3 months
  • Medium-use kitchens (between 6 and 12 hours a day): Every 6 months
  • Light-use kitchens (between 2 and 6 hours a day): Every 12 months

Failing to maintain and inspect a kitchen extraction system can also be a violation of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. If a fire on your premises is determined to be caused by lack of preventative maintenance, you could be held legally responsible.

Don’t risk it – make sure that your kitchen extraction system is thoroughly inspected and cleaned on a regular basis. You can contact JLA for a kitchen canopy inspection and cleaning service to be certain of your kitchen’s compliance with TR19, as well as give yourself peace of mind. 


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