The families of two Boston firefighters killed in a restaurant fire and a third firefighter injured in the blaze have settled their lawsuits brought against the restaurant, its landlord, and a grease-cleaning company, for a total of $2.2 million. Firefighter Warren Payne died instantly, and his co-worker, Paul Cahill, died from smoke inhalation in the August 2007 fire. It was said that the fire was fueled by grease buildup that had seeped from a kitchen exhaust pipe into the ceiling of the Tai Ho Restaurant on Centre Street. Firefighter Kenneth Gibson was injured.
The families of Cahill and Payne filed wrongful death suits last year against Continental Realty, the Tai Ho Corp., and J & B Cleaning. It was alleged that all of the Defendants “knew or should have known that dangerous and defective conditions existed” at the restaurant “created by the carelessness, negligence, and/or gross negligence of the Defendants.” Gibson filed a similar suit against the same Defendants for his injuries.
A Fire Department investigation found explosive conditions in the restaurant’s kitchen, with grease built up to dangerous levels. Restaurant employees had placed a container on the stove to catch drippings from the exhaust hood overhead. State fire codes mandate that restaurants have their exhaust ducts cleaned quarterly and cleared of grease buildup. Tai Ho had hired J & B Cleaning just months before the fire, but a cleaning receipt indicated the company cleaned the stove and the hood, but did not clean the duct. Both the city of Boston and the state have since enacted tough regulations for commercial kitchen grease cleaners. In Boston, cleaners now must pass a certification test and register with the Fire Department before they are cleared to work in city restaurants.
The state Board of Fire Prevention Regulations has given final approval to a measure that would require commercial kitchen grease cleaners across the state to pass tests administered by the state fire marshal before they are allowed to clean restaurant kitchens. In the past, the fire code specified only that the cleaning be done by a “properly trained, qualified, and certified company or person.” Many local fire officials never checked cleaners’ certifications. The new testing will begin in September and the regulation will go into effect on January 1st. This regulation should provide a high standard for individuals involved in cleaning hood systems and hopefully reduce fires and prevent a tragedy similar to the one that took the lives of firefighters in Boston.
Source: Boston Globe
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