Is a pizza oven required to be protected by a fire suppression system?
A special post by Art Shaw
This is a reoccurring question!
The following comments are based upon your typical pizza oven (chain type found at pizza hut, dominoes, or other major pizza chains) not the solid fuel ovens in use. If you watch any of the cooking channels you will have seen pizza ovens in New York that are heated by coal and ovens that are domed shape and fire brick lined where a few stick of wood are placed in the cooking area to warm the fire brick to cook a pizza.
Using the I-codes section 904.2.1 of the International Building Code states “Each required commercial kitchen exhaust hood and duct system required by Section 609 of the International Fire Code (IFC) or Chapter 5 of the International Mechanical Code to have a Type 1 hood shall be protected with an approved automatic fire-extinguishing system installed in accordance with this code”. The code commentary for this section and the corresponding section in the International Fire Code note the need for an approved automatic fire –extinguishing system because a Type 1 hood and duct system is used for handling grease-laden vapors or smoke.
A lesson learned a long time ago is to look at the definitions of words or phrases as they are used in the codes. In this case it is important to look up the definition for “Commercial Cooking Appliances”. In this case the definition is found in Section 602 of the IFC and the IMC. There you find a list of cooking appliances that require exhaust hoods and duct work. Another definition worthy of looking up is “Hood”.
Section 609 of the IFC has two sections, the first of which requires exhaust hood for commercial kitchen cooking equipment. The code commentary for this section reads “An exhaust system is required for all appliances used for commercial cooking as defined in Section 602. In addition to the specific cooking appliances identified in the definition, further examples of commercial cooking appliances that require a commercial exhaust system are griddles (flat or grooved); tilting skillets or woks; braising and frying pans; roasters; pastry ovens; pizza ovens; char broilers, salamanders and upright broilers; infrared broilers and open-burner stoves and ranges.” Note that pizza ovens make the expanded list.
The second requirement found in Section 609 is section 609.2. This section deals with were Type 1 hoods are required. It notes that “Type 1 hoods shall be installed at or above all commercial cooking appliances and domestic cooking appliances used for commercial purposes that produce grease vapors.”
So now the question is “Do pizza’s, when cooking produce grease vapors or smoke?”
When this subject comes up toppings such as pepperoni, bacon, and sausage are said to be the potential cause of grease vapors. When you last inspected a pizza parlor was there an accumulation of grease in the hood (if there is one) and duct? The Chief Mechanical Inspector for the State of Michigan has reportedly told mechanical inspectors that pepperoni on pizza’s does not produce grease laden vapors so a Type 1 hood is not required which then would not require an automatic fire-extinguishing system in the hood and duct. Note that an exhaust hood and duct is required but not a Type 1.
If you found grease build up in a hood and duct at a restaurant that provides cooked pizza’s to their customers or if you are competing a plan review for a restaurant that says they only cook pizzas in their pizza ovens, it would be prudent to ask for a copy of their menu. Restaurants have been known to vary their menus to expand their business. What else are they running through the pizza oven and will those items produce grease laden vapors or smoke when cooked? Is a plate of lasagna run through the oven a problem or is it the hamburgers noted on their expanded menu the problem?
By themselves, pizza’s shouldn’t cause the need for a Type 1 hood with an automatic fire-extinguishing system but add a new food item to the menu and a fire-extinguishing system may now be needed. As well all know nothing ever stay the same.
Newer versions of the code could treat pizza ovens differently. Fire reports and scientific testing bring about code changes so stay tuned.
Art Shaw is a consultant with A.Shaw and associates. He recently retired after a full carerr in the public sector as a Fire Marshal and specializes in working with communities.