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3 Things You Should Be Doing to Prevent Kitchen Exhaust Fires

A kitchen fire is restaurant owner’s worst fear, and an exhaust fire is arguably the most dangerous type of blaze that can break out in a restaurant. This is when a grease fire burning at about 1400 degrees F enters grease-coated exhaust vents, spreading through the ceiling and onto the roof!

The damage from a kitchen exhaust fire can be extensive, and the blaze can burn for an hour or more, unbeknownst to the kitchen staff below, until someone from outside runs in yelling, “You have a fire on your roof!”

Have you recently had a kitchen fire scare? Talk to Kauffman Co. today about what steps you can take to improve your commercial kitchen fire safety this year.

Why Do Kitchen Exhaust Fires Happen?

Keep in mind that most commercial kitchens have fire suppression equipment aimed at the cooking surfaces, but most exhaust systems leading to the rooftop fan do not. This means, even if a fire at the cooking station is extinguished without much trouble, grease higher up in the exhaust vents may continue to burn. This type of fire is known to put restaurants out of business.

The key to preventing kitchen exhaust fires is to clean the vents regularly. Cutting corners or engaging in fly-by-night cleaning operations could create serious liability and litigation issues if a fire breaks out, including losing insurance claims due to negligent and non-compliant exhaust cleaning practices.

Here are the three steps you should take to ensure your commercial kitchen exhaust system is up to code and unlikely to experience a fire.

Hire a Certified Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning Company

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has established rules for cleaning kitchen exhaust systems. NFPA 96 states: “The entire exhaust system shall be cleaned by a properly trained, qualified, and certified company or persons.”

Hire a company certified by a reputable, non-profit accrediting agency, which enforces a high standard of ongoing education and rigorous testing. Your careful selection ensures that the following points are true:

  • The entire system is cleaned thoroughly to prevent the vents from acting like a swift-burning fuse to the roof.
  • Your insurance company can’t deny your claim on the grounds of negligence, which includes improper cleaning.
  • The workers remain safe during the sometimes physically dangerous tasks of climbing ladders, working with corrosive cleaning chemicals, and power washing exhaust equipment.


One question we get quite often is whether or not professional kitchen vent hood cleaning is really necessary. The truth is if you really wanted to, you could clean your kitchen hood by yourself. However, it is strongly recommended that you let a professional fire protection services or kitchen hood cleaning company perform the task for the following reasons:

  • Time and effort – Hood cleaning is dirty, difficult, and time consuming, and usually involves taking apart the system and cleaning the parts with special grease cutting chemicals. Experts know kitchens hoods very well. They know how to take them apart. They know how to clean them. They know how to put them back together. Hiring an expert can ensure that this is done efficiently and correctly.
  • Intricate design – Kitchen hoods are very intricate and someone who does not know how they work can overlook certain crucial areas while cleaning—see the comment above!
  • Potential repair issues – People who aren’t intimately familiar with kitchen hood systems may not be able to tell if certain parts of the kitchen hood system are working properly and it’s extremely important to make sure that each part of the kitchen hood works perfectly.
  • Following fire codes – Professional kitchen hood cleaning companies are well-versed in fire codes and know how to make sure your system is compliant at all times. They can do the job faster and more effectively—in most circumstances—than the restaurant owner or restaurant staff.

Verify the Track Record of the Company You Hire

One of the best ways to ensure you have hired a reputable kitchen exhaust cleaning company is to check their customer satisfaction rates and overall track record. Ask to see testimonials or contact previous clients to ask how the service was. This boosts your confidence when choosing one company over another.

Clean the Entire Exhaust System

Cleaning the readily visible parts of the exhaust system isn’t enough. NFPA 96 requires you to clean:

  • Hoods
  • Grease removal devices
  • Fans
  • Ducts
  • All other appurtenances

Many commercial hood cleaners now offer photo verification to ensure a job well done.

Schedule Commercial Kitchen Exhaust Inspections in Houston

Kauffman Co. performs commercial kitchen exhaust inspections in the Houston, Texas area. We recommend these services at least annually—more often if you operate a sit-down or 24-hour restaurant with moderate-to-high food preparation levels. Then, we can help you find a reputable company to perform kitchen exhaust cleaning as needed to ensure grease buildup doesn’t put your restaurant at increased risk of fire.

To learn more about our services, or to schedule a commercial kitchen exhaust inspection, please contact us today at (713) 893-1090.

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