I heard several reports on what perhaps is one of a small business owner’s worst nightmares: a fire that completely ravages a building to the extent that there’s nothing salvageable. In this case, the fire occurred at a Chinese restaurant in Grand Blanc, Mich. The fire struck in the morning, prior to the restaurant being opened for the day, so no customers were in the building and the workers who were present escaped unharmed.

Unfortunately, a building burning to the ground is not uncommon, and often one doesn’t pay attention to something that happens frequently. What caught my attention about this story is the potential fire source and the way it spread: The fire started in the grease trap and it spread through the HVAC system. While this report has not been confirmed, and who knows if this is true, it is not uncommon for fire to spread in this manner.

The repot did make me question, how often do grease traps, commercial kitchen exhaust systems, and the like get cleaned? As a commercial contractor, do you recommend such systems in a commercial kitchen be cleaned? How often should this cleaning occur? And, why don’t restauranteurs have them cleaned more often? (I’ve seen TV shows such as “Restaurant Impossible,” which has exposed the scary buildup of grease that some eateries have in the kitchens.)

OK, so I think I have a clue why cleaning a kitchen of its grease isn’t done more often or at all: It’s out of sight, out of mind for owners/managers. Or, perhaps they are not aware what could happen if this potential hazard isn’t eliminated. Or, maybe they just don’t want to spend the money.

Well, as a commercial HVAC contractor, perhaps it’s your duty to make sure restaurant owners and managers are aware of what can happen if they don’t take care of their grease disposal, kitchen exhaust, and HVAC systems properly. The Chinese restaurant mentioned above can serve as a cautionary tale. Let’s help them on the front-end, so that they aren’t ending up in the local newspaper in such a catastrophic way.