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Help us 'Make Hidden Grease Visible'

By February 4, 2013News

We know from forensic fire investigators that around 25% of all serious fires in commercial premises are made worse by the presence of accumulated fat, oil and grease (FOG) in kitchen extract ductwork but this is not currently recorded in the fire statistics. We want to change this, and we hope you will help.

We all know that kitchens carry a risk of fire; just this month this incidence of domestic kitchen fires rose dramatically after viewers watched top chef Heston Blumental demonstrate his three times fried chips! But how quickly you can bring a kitchen fire under control can vary greatly.

The condition of the extract can be crucial. If there are FOG deposits in the ductwork, these will act as an accelerant and they will also allow the fire to travel further, fuelling the spread of the fire. If FOG coated ductwork extends some distance through a building, it will carry the fire to other parts of the building, making the damage and threat to life far worse. (See the first 2 minutes of this video where Dr Chris Foster, a renowned forensic fire and explosion investigator, highlights the issue).

Despite this being well known, the presence of FOGs as a factor in the severity of the fire is not currently specifically recorded. As it isn’t recorded, targets cannot be set to reduce the number of fires made worse by FOGs – we’d never know how we were doing. If the recording of fire statistics was altered to record the presence of FOG build up feeding a fire, we could set targets and monitor progress.

Commercial kitchen fires can mean a loss of business, a loss of jobs and at worse, a loss of life. And if there is a fatality, the building owner, operator or manager could find themselves facing criminal charges. The MPs that we’ve lobbied are starting to realise this, and we’ve had several messages of support from them as a result.

It’s all in our interests to help Make Hidden Grease Visible in the fire statistics, so we hope you will help us to achieve this too. If you are prepared to help, please copy the letter below and email it to for attention of Stuart May, Deputy Chief Fire Officer Isle of Wight and Chair of the IRS Working Group/Department for Communities and Local Government. We would be greatful if you would also copy .

Thank you very much for your support.

Please copy and send to for the attention of Stuart May, copying

Dear Mr May

Please would you consider in formulating the new incident recording system for fire statistics, the recording of the presence of accumulated grease in kitchen extract ductwork systems.

You will be aware that forensic fire investigators estimate that at least 25% of kitchen fires investigated are made significantly worse due to the presence of fat, oil and grease in kitchen extract ductwork, yet the incidence of this is not officially recorded. See the first 2 minutes of this video where Dr Chris Foster, a renowned forensic fire and explosion investigator, highlights the issue.

I would like to propose that in future, the following should be recorded:

1. Evidence of fire having extended into the duct system

2. Evidence of fire being made significantly worse as a result of fire having propagated through the duct system

3. Evidence of the presence of accumulated grease over 200 microns in extract ductwork (burnt or not)

4. The presence of or lack of inspection access at minimum intervals of 3 meters; refer to

5. Documented evidence (with photographic evidence) of recent fire safety cleaning in compliance with TR/19 of the B&ES Association guide to good practice ‘Internal Cleanliness of Ventilation Systems’.

With these criteria officially recorded, it will be possible for targets to be set for a reduction in fires made significantly worse by the presence of grease deposits in kitchen extract ductwork, safeguarding lives and protecting UK businesses.

Thank you for your kind attention and I look forward to hearing about this positive change being made to the recording of fire statistics.

Yours sincerely