Thinking About The Energy And The Environment

Out Of The Frying Pan, Into The Fire: Choosing The Right Fire Extinguishers For A Commercial Kitchen

Few workplaces pose so many varied fire hazards as a commercial kitchen serving a restaurant, pub or hotel, and having the right fire extinguishers on hand to deal with every kind of fire that may occur is vital for both the safety of your employees and your expensive kitchen equipment. Generally, this means investing in a diverse array of different fire extinguisher types. The following extinguishers are generally considered to be the most useful for tackling fires in commercial kitchens:

Fire blankets

A ubiquitous sight in residential and commercial kitchens alike, fire blankets are cheap, easy to use, and generally considered the safest way to tackle oil fires in pots, pans and deep fryers. By draping the heavy, fire-retardant blanket over the burning pot, the fire is starved of oxygen and gradually dies down. Since these blankets can only be safely used once, keeping a number of blankets on hand at any one time is recommended

Wet chemical extinguishers

These extinguishers are loaded with some variety of potassium-based detergent liquid and are well suited for dealing with burning oil that has been spilled onto floors and work surfaces. When used, they form a thick, soapy layer over the top of an oil fire, starving it of oxygen while simultaneously lowering the temperature of the oil to below its flash point. With training they can also be used on burning pots and pans, but improper use of the detergent stream can force oil out of the burning pot or pan and cause the fire to spread.

Carbon dioxide extinguishers

These compact extinguishers contain pressurised carbon dioxide, a non-flammable and relatively 'heavy' gas that pushes oxygen away from the fire it is sprayed at. They are ideal for tackling electrical fires which would be unsafe to fight with liquid extinguishing agents, but can also be moderately effective when used on burning clothing, paper and other solid, organic materials.

Be warned: carbon dioxide can also pose a serious health hazard when inhaled. Consequently, these extinguishers should only be used in well-ventilated kitchens and should not be sprayed at people wearing burning clothes.

BE powder extinguishers

These extinguishers are loaded with a reservioir of dry, fire suppressing powder, which settles over the surface of a fire to cut it off from oxygen. They also absorb and subsequently extinguish any burning liquids fuelling the fire. An excellent jack-of-all-trades extinguisher, the only types of fires these extinguishers cannot tackle are those caused by conventional solid materials, such as wood, plastic and fabric; keeping an ordinary water extinguisher on hand for these fires is generally wise.

Be careful if you decide to use these extinguishers, as they are commonly confused with ABE powder extinguishers which cannot be used on burning oils and fats. BE powder is also difficult and time-consuming to remove from your kitchen once a fire is extinguished, so consider keeping these extinguishers around as a last resort for tackling fires that do not respond to other extinguishing methods.