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Do Pizza Ovens Require Suppression

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.

{ 18 comments… add one }

  • Nick Markowitz Jr. April 28, 2009, 6:22 pm

    The ovens used in the Pizza chains are mostly electrically heated to allow for a standard produced product. so chances of a fire getting hot enough to pop a link on a K rated system will never happen and a K system being used over the oven will do far more damage than good . Most fires is these ovens would automatically self extinguish
    once power is turned off .
    Being electric there are no open flames.
    and you would get mostly smoke not fire.
    These new units also have plenty of safety features built into them as well

  • Eddie Hard April 28, 2009, 6:36 pm

    This question has been asked more ttime than I care to remember, usually from the fire system installer to the code offical.
    Lets look beyond the chain drive oven for a minute to one of my favorite most over looked peices of commercial cooking appliances, the tilt skillet.
    The tilt skillet is most often found in industrial kitchens (i.e. Prisons), they are in most prision kitchens because some time back an very smart designer actually looked at the manufacturers cut sheet on the tilt skillet. When else can you get one peice equipment that takes up only 50″ – 66″ of floor space that is listed in the cut sheets as capable of making french fries, cooking hamburgers or pancakes or making soup. So one tilt skillet can replace a fryer, griddle and a kettle. Most AHJ’s looked at tilt skillets as a kettle until they actually witnessed them being used as a fryer and it was lick a light bulb being turned on…
    Now back to the chain drive pizza oven as most people call it.
    What can be “cooked” in in???
    Hot wings, pizza, apple pies, hambugers, cheese sticks, bacon, sausage….
    None of thse items produce any measurable grease….only if the equipment is cleaned on a proper frequency. Only problem is the owners manual was lost 3 days after the store opened and the manager that was trained on how to maintain was let go 4 months after the store opened and that was 3-1/2 years ago…..and the grease cobwebs can be seen from the front counter…..
    If this sounds familiar then maybe just maybe you should question the plan reviewer and say type 1 is a must!!!
    And dont forget a nozzle or two in the opening & exit of the oven.

    Time to get off my box.

  • Major Herrick April 28, 2009, 7:59 pm

    Cooking a Pizza produces grease. Heating cheese, fatty meats, and whatever the kids at a pizza shop decide can be cooked in the appliance will produce grease laden vapors. You will not be able to argue that fact with me, every pizza place I have ever inspected will prove my point with a nice layer of grease residue. The next-to-minium wage workers at these places do not perform outstanding cleaning routines on these appliances or hoods.

    With that in mind, a type 1 hood is required in my jurisdiction for “Horizontal broilers” as the chain-driven pizza ovens are known in the industry. Whether it is electric or gas, the build-up in these ovens CAN be heated to the point of pyrolisis and eventally, ignition. It is not enough to simply have heads over the ovens, nozzles must be aimed into the boilers to be effective. The wet chemical suppression systems are capable of cooling and suppressing a fire in this application, read a system cut sheet under “Horizontal broiler” for the listing information.

    The item I do struggle with…popcorn popers. They do produce grease, but are they a fire hazard? Is there any history of fires caused by them? A near-by jurisdiction required a type 1 hood over them. The movie theater went with an all-in-one ventless machine that had an incorporated suppression system.

  • Brian Dove April 29, 2009, 7:38 am

    Having worked for 5 years in a pizza parlor, I am somewhat an authority of whether they produce grease laden vapors. They produce grease stalagtites in the oven that crust over and eventually have to be broken off so they do not dislodge product while it is passing through. We used to break them off with the broom handle. Thats when we knew it was time to call in the oven cleaner and guess what he cleaned out of the oven – lots of grease. I also had to mop up the grease under it where they came out at the end because grease would drip on the floor there from the waffle holed pans we used on some.

    They do produce grease laden vapors and any suggestion they do not is ignoring the Physics involved in the production of pizzas. Fats used in pepperonis and pizza meats including cheeses have a smoke point typically in the 300′s & 400′s deg F. These ovens operate at or above these temps because they have to – to cook the product and brown it in the time they need to deliver it to the customer.

    I have never seen one that does not. Even the little chain driven electric ones in convenience stores that cook pizza produce grease laden vapor – all you have to do is look at the ceiling above them. This is an inspection clue – if there is grease on the ceiling, the ventilation system is not capturing and removing the smoke and grease laden vapors which is what the code intended to happen with cooking appliances.

    They all need a hood and they all need the suppression in the plenum and duct as a minimum. It is also common to install suppression in the opening much like a chain brolier – which is really what a pizza oven is – a fancy chain broiler. The proof is in the pudding – go inspect the ones in your jurisdiction – dont take my word for it. If their pizza does not produce grease, why does their sink have to have a grease trap?

    Another comment that simply is not true – pizza chains use electric ovens – from my perspective – they prefer the gas fired ovens. I have seen electric in convenience stores for frozen premade pizza, but not in any place that actually hand makes and cooks pizza in the city I worked in. Still the issue is the heat and not the fuel, electric ovens also have to heat the product up to or above its smoke point to cook it.

    Now – how many of these stores also sell chicken wings – that they cook in the pizza oven? They do – now how is it that cooking chicken does not produce grease laden vapors?

    I have seen solid fuel ovens. Caution if you have one – do not let them do horizontal duct runs if you can help it, soot drop out will occur and eventually you will get a flue fire.

  • Mark Spoo April 29, 2009, 1:55 pm

    Ok folks it is time for a reality check. We are talking about Pizza oven and “chain fed ovens” here. Is there supportive data that states how many out of control fires there have been that have required fire department intervention or even the use of fire extinguishers in theses ovens?
    How many flue fires have been caused directly by these types of ovens? I challenge any fire prevention expert to show me this data and if you can you are doing well. Let us look at this from a practical stand point. If you have a fire in the oven that is shown in this question (where is the fire going to go?
    The following code citation was quoted 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.
    All of the above items other than the Pizza ovens are open heat, open top and taking into account the tilting skillet that does have a lid it to can be opened.
    I believe one should be concerned about the overall housekeeping and other code violations in the entire building if one finds grease stains above a pizza oven. Now this does bring up a good point. If people are cooking more than pizza in a pizza oven is the intent of the oven maker to misrepresent their product as a pizza oven or is it a regular oven? Do we protect ovens?
    We could make 1000 reasons to have or not to have coverage in these devices. Show us the data that says there have been incidents causing fires with these products.
    And finally ask yourself this. If you trip on a rock because you did not see it do we paint every rock in the world yellow?
    COMMON SENSE PEOPLE get your noses out of the books and use common sense.

  • w300mag April 29, 2009, 5:00 pm

    I believe “pizza conveyor ovens” are included in the definition of a “Medium- Duty Cooking Appliance” in Chapter 2 of the IMC. The only place I see in Chapter 5 that allows for someType II hoods are those classed as “Light-Duty Cooking Appliance” of which a “deck or deck-style” type pizza ovens. The Light-Duty Cooking converyor appliances are like the Quizno’s/Sub Way type where they heat or toast/melt cheese, pre-cooked pizza, etc. but don’t “cook” a pizza from a raw/uncooked state to a piping hot fully cooked one. Also, the regular pizza ovens have doors on them and are not open on each end which allows plenty of air to feed a fire vs. a closed door scenario. The closed door type are like a regular oven where a Type II system is used. There are also considerable amounts of fat in cheese and pepperoni, bacon, sausage, hamburger, etc. that produce sufficient amounts of grease laden vapors to warrant the Type I hood and suppression system. The last system I looked at had the temp set at 515 degrees F and was gas fired.

  • Bradley Howard, CET April 29, 2009, 6:22 pm

    I agree that conveyor pizza ovens need to have fire protection. There is not much difference between this and a chain broiler. I do not subscribe to the notion that pizza’s do not produce grease while they are cooking. Simply look at the paper wraper or the box for the grease residue. I would not want fire data or NIFiRS reports indicating a problem before something is done. Fire protection designers, such as Eddie Hard and myself, tend to be proactive than reactive. I say if it is open cooking….protect it. Believe me, the Ansulex or other wet chemical agent will do it a favor by giving it a good cleaning.

  • Major Herrick April 29, 2009, 8:10 pm

    I respect your point of view Mr. Spoo, but I have to vehemently disagree with you.

    First you call for examples of fires in these types of appliances. You argue about what could possibly burn. The premise of “nothing has happened yet” flies in the face of what prevention is. To this I argue that pizza ovens are heat producing appliances that are capable of igniting flammables. As Mr. Dove attested, these ovens do suffer build-ups of “grease stalagtites’” that constitute a highly flammable, and in this case pre-heated, fuel load.

    “How many out of control fires have there been that have required fire department intervention or even a fire extinguisher?” Again you go with a reactionary frame of mind. I have been to three kitchen fires that were fully suppressed by the fire system, and yet people were injured by splattering grease, thermal burns, and smoke inhalation. Just because the fire doesn’t “go anywhere” doesn’t make it harmless. I have also been to a kitchen fire that involved an over-heated oven that produced so much heat that the ceiling caught fire and burned through the roof. There was no additional fuel load involved with the ignition of the structure, just a faulty appliance (Who has never heard of an appliance malfunctioning?).

    No, I cannot site a fire with this type appliance that caused a problem. But, by the same line of faulty logic, I can say that no MGM Grand Hotel and Casino fire had occurred prior to November 21, 1980. Is a comparison of the two fair? Maybe not, but the fire that occurred that day that killed 87 people started in a restaurant called “The Deli.” A place that seemed quite benign from a fire hazard point of view.

    In the last part of your statement, you site a need for better housekeeping. Any inspector that spends time in the field can tell you that housekeeping is one of the most frequent violations sited in cooking establishments. No matter how many times you tell a place that they need to maintain a cleaner kitchen, you will have to tell them again next time you inspect the place. I ask everyone to realize a simple fact, most kitchens are never going to be as clean as they should be. We have to accept that no amount of enforcement that our departments can afford will ever change this. Therefore we need to provide a safe environment in spite of this condition. We do this by requiring equipment that is tested and proven to suppress fires in kitchens. Why would we argue against their installation? The only viable argument I can accept is money.

    Lastly Mr. Spoo, you argue for common sense. I am here to tell you that common sense is nearly extinct. Common sense is on the endangered species list here in America. We have instead embraced a culture of litigation. Why bother with common sense that tells us that COFFEE IS SERVED HOT!, when we can litigate for millions when we spill it on our own lap? Here in America we have given up our own sense of responsibility and instead look for lawyers to determine who is at fault. Make no mistake, if we in the prevention service are negligent in our duties and someone is injured, the lawyers will soon know our names. It is for this very reason that I error on the side of safety every time. I would much rather appear before a judge to answer why I am requiring a fire suppression system over a pizza oven, than step before a judge to defend myself when the lawyers ask “Why didn’t you require a suppression system?” after someone is hurt.

    I implore you all to do the same,
    Major Herrick

  • Tom Jacobs April 30, 2009, 11:11 am

    I agree with Mr. Herrick 110%. If you are in the code enforcement field you are there to protect the public and enforce the law whether the public likes it or not.

    We are not in the code enforcement field to ensure contractor profit or business profit or a cheaper way to do anything. We are there to ensure the business does not close due to preventable hazard. We are there to ensure the community is protected from preventable hazard. To overlook obvious hazard is doing your community a disservice.

    I find that code officials who have had real experience in other trades or industries along with fire service experience have more of a sense of the “real world”, and can therefore discern when they are being hoodwinked. There is nothing wrong with the book either, and we all just might learn something from reading a little more closely some of the things we take for granted.

  • Brian Batten May 7, 2009, 5:54 pm

    Interesting topic. You would think that the ICC and NFPA would make a clear and decisive decision on fire suppression for pizza ovens. Then write the code to specifically mandate suppression or not.

    It is and will continue to challenge us.

  • fred kraft January 27, 2010, 6:03 pm

    I agree with Major Herrick- the fire can cause other items to burn- along with trhe simple answer to the fact- defi of a oven- if it does not have doors it is not a oven and there for is a chain broiler and needs a hood and system plain and simple-as for if it is used to produce grease is also mute- I could use a fryer to boil pasta does that mean i am exempt- lets talk commen sense here- a duck is a duck even if you paint it green -tie a ribbon on its head and call it a alien-its still a duck- chain driven broilers are broilers not ovend because we renamed them to sell better-when I go to a burning building we say its on fire- not its overly warm so we dont have to do a report-

  • DFDFireInspector November 30, 2010, 1:07 pm

    I was struggling with what to do about a pizza restaurant in my jurisdiction (I am new at this) because I found a grease covered Type II hood with SCORCH marks in it. It appears they may have had an oven fire previously (or just a really hot oven that caused the aformentioned grease to scorch). The place is just a few years old and when it was built our FD fought with the Building Code Officials on this very issue. I am going to fight to have them install a fixed supression system, I may get over ruled, but what I have observed tells me they need it. Oh and I found this, see the first page- http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/IFMA%20quarterlies/IFMA_Quarterly_Spring_01.pdf

  • Jackie Mullen December 4, 2010, 2:47 pm

    Hello, We use electric deck ovens at 525 degrees and have had them in place since 1999. We do not have any grease build up in or on our ovens nor is there any in our heat hood. We use olive oil in our sauce and of course sell alot of pepperoni pizza. The pans and customer plates are covered in oil and grease when they come to the dish pit and we find grease in our grease trap. How is this possible? If the grease becomes airbourne at 400 degrees why is there no grease in our hood? We are protected at the breaker box and we have a fire sprinkling system with an alarm why should anyone have to also have an ansul system on electric pizza deck ovens? Over the years working in other resturaunts i have had to deal with inspectors like” Major” A power tripping Barney Phife with a code book. You should consider what the majority of experts agree on, pizza ovens require a type 2 hood.

    • DFDFireInspector December 5, 2010, 11:34 pm

      If you look at the link I posted above you will see that the NFPAs answer is that if pizza is all that is being cooked, you are right, but once other food that produces grease laden vapors put into it, it needs a class 1 hood. After the inspection above I approached my Chief and he said no to enforcing a class 1 installation, but the hood referenced above must be maintained such that it doesn’t have an accumulation of grease. Even if they have to clean it every month! Since I am new at this I decided to do all the pizza shops in town and have found that, so far, every class 2 hood has been grease covered and every pizza place puts more than pizza in their oven. So far the list includes pasta, bread stick, wings, subs, chicken strips and cheesesticks. 4 for 4 on greasy hoods, I cannot explain why yours has no grease and NONE of pizza restaurants I have been in so far are sprinklered.

  • Art Shaw December 10, 2010, 2:43 pm

    I don’t have a copy with me at this time but as far as Michigan is concerned take a look at the newly adopted mechanical code. There are some new definitions of various type of cooking equipment and a conveyer type pizza oven needs protection. There are other changes that all inspectors should become familiar with.

  • beth merkel October 23, 2011, 12:00 am

    How much time should an established pizza concession stand receive as notice as to the new regulations? I was given 5 minutes to install an ansel system or face a $500 fine per day.
    My hood system is very clean and ovens are cleaned out once a week. I feel this is very unfair.
    We are at the Greater Gulf Fair in Mobile Alabama

    • Michael O'Brian November 3, 2011, 2:40 pm

      This is a complex question and would be solved with the AHJ, transit food units have some regulations and its up to the local fire marshal

  • Billy Roach November 12, 2011, 9:17 pm

    Follow-up to Ms. Merkel (10-23-2011) an approved fire watch was established and she was allowed to operate without a type 1 hood system. Note: The Fair Association required all vendors with cooking trailers to sign an agreement (before approving their lease) to have type 1 hoods with suppression systems to comply with 2009 IFC and 2009 IMC.
    Fire Code Official
    Mobile Fire-Rescue Department

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