Do you want to know what size of fire extinguisher is right for your food truck? If YES, here are 3 factors to consider before buying a fire extinguisher.
Food trucks are expected to be equipped with an easy to reach Class K fire extinguisher, which are designed to put out fires resulting from grease and oil, as these substances burn at much higher temperatures. You can determine the size you need and its fire fighting capabilities by reading the label.
For instance, if you are looking for an ABC multi – purpose fire extinguisher—the most common type in use today—you might see 2A:10B:C on the label. This is a standard 5 – lb extinguisher appropriate for use in most ordinary commercial settings, but canisters can be much larger than this.
In some jurisdictions, food trucks fall into a gray area of fire safety regulations that makes the situation even more confusing. Requirements for brick and mortar restaurants can never fit the size and structure of a mobile kitchen, and food trucks’ mobility also prevents them from fitting the definition of temporary structures covered by fire codes.
3 Factors to Consider When Picking the Appropriate Fire Extinguisher Size for Your Truck
With the proper understanding of how to read a fire extinguisher label, you can then determine what size is best for your food truck business. Here are the factors to consider:
- Food Truck Size
Space and materials are natural determinants of how slowly or fast a fire can spread. That is why it’s important to heed the Class B size rating when choosing an extinguisher for a small spaced trailer. A standard 2A:10B: C extinguisher should be sufficient for an average – sized room with no significant hazards. However, a larger space may need a 4A:60B: C or 10A:80B: C extinguisher to cover the larger area.
- Presumed Fire Speed
Agreeably, even the smallest fire extinguishers are effective if you employ them quickly after a fire ignites. However, some rooms encourage the flames to spread faster than others, such as a trailer designed with flammable wallpapers and other flammable debris on the floor. In short, if a fire is likely to spread quickly, you need a larger fire extinguisher.
- Your Physical Capabilities
Extinguishers with greater fire fighting capabilities contain more extinguishing agent, making them larger and heavier. This is why you can’t simply purchase the largest possible extinguishers for your business. For your consideration, a 2A:10B: C canister weighs 5 lbs.; a 4A:60B: C canister weighs 10 lbs.; and a 10A:80B: C canister weighs 20 lbs.
3 Major Causes of Food Truck Fires
Just like every other food service business, food trucks are susceptible to fire hazards that can cause a fire to quickly spiral out of control: open flames, hot equipment, propane tanks, gas generators, electrical connections, cooking oils, splattered grease, cleaning chemicals, paper products, gasoline or diesel fuel, and engine oil.
However, unlike brick and mortar restaurants, customers at the counter stand uncomfortably close to fire hazards in the kitchen, making it even more important for food truck operators to take extra precautions. Most food truck owners rely on either gas or electricity to cook. Fires can spark from the stove, oven, and bubbling fryer, but it is fuel sources that carry the greatest potential for inflicting destruction and casualties.
Without doubt, generators used to generate electricity for a food truck can create fire risks. Note that this danger is probably the greatest in older food trucks or vehicles converted into mobile kitchens rather than newer food trucks specifically built for cooking operations.
Without proper venting, trucks can fill with flammable (and otherwise dangerous) carbon monoxide gas created by the generator or electrical system. Many cramped food truck spaces also do not include places to properly store the fuel required to run the generator safely, away from ignition sources.
- Propane Tanks
These tanks pose the most significant risk of fire in a food truck. Reports have it that over 68 percent of food truck fires are related to leaks or structural failures in propane tanks. Propane explosions were behind almost every food truck fire involving injuries and deaths in recent years.
Although cooking with propane is generally considered safe, just a small, 20 – pound propane cylinder attached to a backyard grill contains the explosive power of 170 sticks of dynamite – generating more than 425,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) of energy. Moreover, food trucks can carry 100 – pound propane cylinders capable of exploding with more than 2.5 million BTUs.
Food trucks are constantly on the move, driving over bumpy roads and potholes that can jostle propane tanks—loosening connections and fittings and causing other structural damage. Failing to properly tighten fittings when tanks are swapped out can also cause leaks.
Since propane is heavier than air, an undetected leak on a tank inside a truck tends to pool near the floor. In a truck saturated with cooking smells, people may not realize that they are standing in a pocket of propane gas. And a single spark from the oven or stove can ignite the gas.
According to industry reports, cooking equipment causes 61 percent of fires in eating and drinking establishments, and fire codes have long required hood suppression systems over ovens, burners, grills, and fryers in commercial kitchens.
Note that the 2018 edition of NFPA 1 220.127.116.11 stresses that food trucks are not exempted from being “protected by an approved hood fire suppression system or other approved means of extinguishment in the event of fire.” Nonetheless automatic fire suppression systems are often absent in older food trucks or vehicles converted into mobile kitchens.
So many food truck operators carry portable fire extinguishers, but many don’t realize that they need two types to effectively extinguish the types of fires they are likely to face: a Class K extinguisher for suppressing grease, fat, or cooking oil fires and an ABC extinguisher for putting out fires involving paper products or other types of fires.
With the information above, you can make an informed decision about how big your fire extinguishers should be. Still, you might second – guess yourself since you have limited knowledge about fire codes. Nonetheless, every single food truck vendor needs to understand these fire safety basics and pass them to their employees.