Fire investigators say grease accumulated above suppression system
TUMALO, Ore. (KTVZ) – A food cart at The Bite lot in Tumalo was destroyed by a fire Sunday afternoon that officials said was caused by grease that accumulated in the kitchen hood ductwork, above the fire suppression system. The owner of The Rogue Chef says he’s thankful no one was hurt – and that they’ll be back.
Several callers reported the fire at the Seventh Street food cart lot shortly after 3 p.m., Bend Fire & Rescue Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering said. Crews en route saw “a significant column of smoke,” she said, so it was upgraded to a structure fire response.
Arriving firefighters found flames coming through the roof of the food cart and quickly knocked it down. But Kettering said the cart was a total loss, at an estimated replacement value of about $100,000.
“Upon investigation, it was found that the fire originated in the ductwork of the kitchen hood due to an accumulation of grease,” Kettering said in a news release. “While there was a kitchen hood suppression system in place, the fire originated above the level of the suppression system, rendering it ineffective in holding the fire in check.”
“Luckily, nobody was hurt,” said owner Stefan Pena, who said the food cart has been at The Bite since it opened in 2016. Their Facebook page calls it a “gourmet mobile kitchen, featuring fresh American Wagyu burgers.”
The manager and an employee were in the cart when the fire broke out, Pena said.
“It was just a freak thing that popped up," he said. noting there’s a six- to 12-inch neck just below the fan, in the wall of the cart.
“We just, ironically, had that thing degreased and cleaned,” Pena said Sunday evening, adding that the fire burned so hot, it “melted the aluminum.”
But he said initial word from insurers was positive, so he said he expects they'll be back, “shiny and new.”
Kettering's news release concluded with some general advice: "Bend Fire & Rescue would like to remind the public that many kitchen fires are preventable. Keep combustibles away from hot surfaces, clean surfaces regularly to prevent grease accumulation, and never pour water on a grease fire. Slide a lid onto the pan (a cookie sheet will work too) and turn off the heat. Leave the lid in place until the pan is cold. For more kitchen safety tips, visit our website at https://www.bendoregon.gov/government/departments/fire-rescue/safety-tips-emergency-preparedness/year-round-safety-tips."