Most Common Restaurant Fire Loss Sources and How To Prevent Them


There are an estimated 5,600 restaurant fires reported annually, resulting in over $116M in property damage. *

Most Common Causes of Fires in Restaurants**

  • Cooking Equipment is responsible for 57% of restaurant fires.
  • Heating Equipment is responsible for 10% of restaurant fires.
  • Electrical distribution and lighting equipment is responsible for 7% of restaurant fires
  • Smoking is responsible for 7%
  • Arson is responsible for 5%
  • Failure to keep a clean kitchen was a factor in approximately 22% of fires

Commercial Cooking Hazards

Grease Laden Vapors – all cooking is capable of producing grease laden vapors, especially when
utilizing lipids (oil, butter, lard, grease). Grease laden vapors are produced when heat and
steam rise from a cooking surface that contains grease. The passage of grease laden vapors
through the ventilation system results in deposits on the interior surfaces. A severe fire hazard
exists if the accumulated grease within the ventilation system is not removed. The most
prevalent sources of grease laden vapor productions are deep fat fryers, followed by woks,
broilers, grills, and stove top frying. The hazard associated with grease laden vapors is
exacerbated by the close proximity of ignition sources, such as open flames or hot appliances,
and a large supply of surrounding combustibles.

Greasy Towels and Rags

Folded towels are commonly used in restaurants for handling hot pots, pan handles,
trays, etc. This simple practice creates a fire hazard as towels collect grease from the
surrounding cooking environment. Grease laden towels present a significant fire hazard.
They can retain a grease residue even after they have been washed. Once they are removed
from a hot dryer the combination of residual grease and heat could lead to spontaneous
combustion. Dirty towels should be stored in metal cans with a tight-fitting lid until
they can be removed from the building daily or cleaned. The solution is to either use a
professional cleaning service or allow the towels to cool before folding and stacking.

Loss Mitigation

A restaurant’s potential for loss can be dramatically reduced with the combination of a
ventilation system, fire suppression system and a scheduled cleaning program. According to
the NFPA, approximately 30% of suppression systems failed to operate during a fire event
with lack of proper maintenance contributing to 44% of these failures. Commercial cooking
installations are governed by these model codes: NFPA 96, NFPA 17A and UP-300. The
minimum requirements for a safe installation include:

  • Proper 16” clearance between deep fat fryers and sources of ignition
  • Scheduled professional cleaning and servicing of the systems
  • Stainless steel hood and ductwork with externally welded, leak proof seams
  • Tight fitting grease baffles
  • Type K portable fire extinguisher
  • UL-300 compliant, wet type automatic suppression system

*National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS)
** National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

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Hospitality Insurance Group
106 Southville Road, Southborough, MA 01772