Northwest NEWS

May 22, 2000

Local News

In case of (a cooking) fire...

by Bronwyn Wilson, staff reporter

   In 1999, a fire broke out at a grocery store in Kingsgate. The occupants attempted to put the fire out with a standard fire extinguisher, but the flames refused to die as the dry chemical fire extinguisher could not put the fire out. Neither was the store's built-in fire protection successful in snuffing out the fire. Fortunately, though, the Fire Department had purchased new fire extinguishers, the type with a new wet chemical agent, and it was used to extinguish the fire and prevent further damage.

   In the past, businesses have relied on the standard fire extinguisher to suppress a fire, should one break out on the premises. In most instances, this has been sufficient. But in the case of fires resulting from cooking operations, which produce grease-laden vapors, the dry chemical fire extinguisher doesn't have the ability to properly extinguish the fire.

   On May 15, the Woodinville City Council approved Ordinance No. 263, which will require all businesses and schools to provide the new Portable Class K fire extinguisher within three months after the adoption of the Ordinance. The Ordinance also requires that affected businesses will need to upgrade their fire protection systems within one year after the adoption of the Ordinance to meet UL 300 standards (a new fire testing standard by Underwriter Laboratories to improve fire protection in restaurant cooking areas.)

   The UL 300 standard puts in place a new fire suppression system that will serve to protect businesses in case of a grease-laden cooking fire. Over the years, the use of animal fats for frying foods has given way to the use of vegetable oils that help lower the fat and cholesterol content of food. However, vegetable oils burn at a higher temperature than animal fats and create fires that are more difficult to extinguish.

   Dry chemical extinguishing agents were used extensively in older fire suppression systems and many dry chemical systems are still in use today. Testing showed that while dry chemical systems could knock down fires,they would reflash and continue to burn, due to a lack of cooling. Water spray devices have also raised concerns in the extinguishing of today's restaurant cooking fire. Testing by the Fire Equipment Manufacturers Association showed that water spray devices took seven to ten minutes to put a fire out, versus three seconds for wet chemical fire suppression systems.

   A review showed that 56 Woodinville businesses have cooking operations that may be affected by this Ordinance. Fire protection companies have quoted the average cost for conversion to be $2,500. The actual amount will vary depending on the size and attributes of the existing suppression system.