Cooling Units and Temperatures

  • Verify refrigeration wasn’t compromised.
  • If refrigeration seals aren’t good, contents must be discarded.  A refrigeration unit (reach-in, walk-in etc.) with bad gaskets acts like a vacuum and actually draws the smoke inside through the gaps in the seal.
  • Anything over 41 degrees can’t be considered safe.
  • Items in freezers where the temperature is above 41 degrees should be discarded.
  • The facility should get a freezer truck if items can be safely saved.
  • Verify time and temperature.
  • Items that are frozen and thawed but maintained at a safe temperature may be saved but have the potential to get frost burn which could become a quality issue.


Food Safety

  • Anything on the cooking line or in a prep unit should be discarded. Even items under prep unit are not to be considered safe because the prep top lids do not close tightly and food underneath could be unsafe from smoke damage.
  • Saran wrap or foil will not protect food from smoke.
  • Screw tops, plastic packages, cereal boxes need to be discarded in severe smoke damage or heat.
  • Canned goods may be salvageable if there has not been too much heat damage.  Cans must be washed, rinsed and sanitized.
  • Ice machines must be dumped and sanitized.
  • Salad bar items must be discarded.
  • In a liquor establishment, anything with a pour spout must go down the drain.
  • Consider bar area-fruit, single-use items, etc. that have been exposed, must be discarded.
  • If fire suppression system has discharged, everything on line must go. (Including paper products that get contaminated.)
  • On inspection form, note if you witness what is thrown out. They may request a letter from you that they may need for insurance purposes.  REQUIRE the operation to provide the BOH with an inventory list of what was discarded.  (This helps if an individual accuses the establishment of serving unwholesome items, etc. after the fire.)


Single Use Items

  • Open boxes of paper products should be discarded.
  • Closed boxes of paper products may be saved.  Exterior box should be discarded if covered with soot.
  • When trying to salvage items in sealed cardboard boxes that have experienced some smoke damage, a good technique is to have a “clean” person and a “dirty” person for the salvaging process. The clean person should only touch clean items. The dirty person can discard dirty items/open dirty boxes.
  • Verify what is thrown out.
  • All work surfaces must be washed, rinsed and sanitized.  If smoke damage is severe, walls and ceiling may also need to be cleaned.


Smoke and Soot

  • Smoke is a judgment call depending on the severity.
  • A tool for judging the amount of smoke is to wipe hand across surfaces, boxes, etc. to see what kind of residue is present.
  • Smoke damage may be concentrated to certain areas.  Ask the fire department how much and where the smoke was concentrated.


Fire Department and Related Considerations

  • Note on inspection form if the fire department takes something out of service. They may take a piece of equipment out of service. Note that equipment may not be used until they get clearance from local fire authority.
  • If suppression system dumps, you may note OK to open for health department when cleared by the fire department.
  • Can note “OK to open when…” and add provisos.  Always include for BOH only, must have approval from local fire authority to open.


Other Considerations

  • If sprinklers have been activated, food, related equipment and contact surfaces that cannot be properly sanitized must be discarded.
  • Caution facility to verify that equipment is safe and will not short out if it has been saturated with water.
  • Facility may want to do something to food or single-use items to make them unfit for reuse if taken from the garbage. Keep in mind safety. Some places will pour bleach on items to render them not usable, but that also has the potential to hurt someone if they try to scavenge items from a site or dumpster.
  • Facility may need to have solid waste hauler empty dumpster more frequently or get an extra dumpster in the event of an emergency.
  • Can note “OK to open when…” and add conditions or provisos.  This may happen in the event that there is additional cleaning that needs to be done or work that cannot be completed within inspection timeframe. A follow-up inspection may or may not be needed.
  • Most of the items in this document are related to severely affected areas and or events. The course of action will be determined on a case by case basis and will vary based on the severity, nature of fire, facility type, location of fire, etc.


Considerations for Other Food Related Emergencies

  • In the event of a sewage back up or flood, cans are the only item that may be washed, rinsed & sanitized. Label with a marker.
  • Insulation can be ruined once it is touched by flood water.
  • If a facility has an ammonia leak which has happened in large refrigeration units, call the Department of Agriculture for guidance. An ammonia leak can destroy all produce.  Produce absorbs the ammonia and MUST be discarded.




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