Extinguishers for Restaurants

By Mark Conroy

On the afternoon of May 20, 2020, a small restaurant fire in Mitchell, SD was extinguished with a portable fire extinguisher. When the fire department responded there were no injuries, the fire had not spread, no structural damage was found, and no appliances were damaged. The restaurant was turned back over to the owners1. Another success story for extinguishers!

For appliances that use cooking oil, NFPA requires a Class K extinguisher [NFPA 10, 6.6.1]. Wet chemical is the extinguishing agent and is discharged as a fine mist. A chemical reaction occurs creating a vapor-suppressing foam on the oil surface. The foam is a barrier between the cooking oil surface and oxygen, which extinguishes the fire and prevents re-ignition. The foam is long lasting and should remain undisturbed to allow the oil to cool below its re-ignition point.

Travel Distance

The maximum travel distance for Class K extinguishers is 30 ft. Additional Class K extinguishers are often installed so that a person does not need to walk through a fire area to retrieve an extinguisher. On the other hand, one extinguisher can sometimes be installed within 30 ft of multiple cooking stations.

Class K Placard

All restaurants with Class K hazards should also have a fixed system. A placard that states the system is to be actuated prior to using the extinguisher is required to be installed at each Class K extinguisher. Not only does the system contain enough wet chemical to extinguish the fire, but there is an interlock to shut down the heat sources. This is critical with a cooking oil fire involving a heat-producing appliance.

Other Hazards in Restaurants

According NFPA statistics, cooking equipment was the leading cause of fires in restaurants, accounting for three out of five fires2. But there are other hazard areas in restaurants. That is why extinguishers are required for other hazards in the kitchen areas [NFPA 96, 10.9.3] and throughout the dining area.

The NFPA statistics also state that two-thirds (68%) of fires in restaurants were small and did not spread beyond the object of origin. This is a clear indication that kitchen systems and extinguishers are being used as intended (to keep people safe and prevent fire spread).

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Mark Conroy is an engineer in our Boston, MA office and a member of several NFPA committees responsible for restaurant safety.

© 2020 Brooks Equipment

1. Staff (2020), Daily Republic News, retrieved from https://www.mitchellrepublic.com/news/fires/6500424-Small-fire-at-Chinese-restaurant-extinguished-on-Wednesday, June 16, 2020.
2. NFPA Report, Structure Fires in Eating and Drinking Establishments Fact Sheet, retrieved from https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/Fact-sheets/EatingFactSheet.pdf, June 16, 2020.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above Tech Series article are the author’s only and provide limited information. Although the information is believed to be reliable, Brooks Equipment Company, LLC expressly disclaims any warranty with respect to the information and any liability for errors or omissions. The user of this article or the product(s) is responsible for verifying the information’s accuracy from all available sources, including the product manufacturer. The authority having jurisdiction should be contacted for code interpretations.