Fire on Wheels
Handling food truck fires and explosions
By Eric Gilkey
CLM’s Retail, Restaurant, and Hospitality Community presented a webinar that looked at recent food truck fires and explosions in order to highlight and educate listeners on the risks while also addressing the opportunities for developing recovery claims and potential liabilities.
Kathleen R. LaVallie, claims consultant with CNA Insurance
Karl W. Aittaniemi, senior consultant with Rimkus Consulting Group Inc.
Dean S. Rauchwerger, partner at Butler Weihmuller Katz Craig LLP
“Food trucks are big business, and I mean really big—$2.7 billion annually. The industry is booming across the country, becoming the go-to eatery in urban centers, community festivals, sporting events, college campuses, and concerts.”
“Food trucks are popular because they offer a wide variety of foods, millennials love them, and start-up costs are usually under $100,000, so they’re financially reasonable to start. You can find food trucks everywhere, but hot spots include Washington, D.C., San Diego, San Francisco, and Raleigh.”
“A key question in any fire or explosion loss is ‘Does this food truck explosion give rise to subrogation?’ These are recovery opportunities. Really, it’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ Why? Because food trucks have all of the ingredients for disaster: open flames, hot equipment, electrical connections, cooking oils, cleaning chemicals, and combustible materials.”
“Food trucks are treated as mobile commercial kitchens and have all of the same risks. Primarily what we’re seeing in losses are propane leaks and gas buildup, which subsequently leads to explosions and fires.”
“When it comes to investigating a food truck fire scene, time is of the essence since food trucks are often on a street or in a parking lot and you don’t have the convenience of boarding off the scene. Municipalities also want to clean it up quickly. It’s important to secure the scene and evidence; take photos; identify witnesses; and take statements quickly.”
“The primary hazards of a food truck are going to be the electrical systems; fuel sources such as propane; and cooking appliances like grills and deep fat fryers. A hood and duct system that ventilates cooking vapors is essential, but it’s also a place where grease can build up, which can be a fuel for a fire.”
“The National Fire Incident Reporting System says 60 percent of food truck fires were related to liquid propane gas leaks. Therefore, the connections and components used for these propane tanks are important, since travel vibrations are often a causation factor.”
“Like in many food truck fires and explosions, not only is the truck often destroyed or damaged, but also adjoining property, vehicles, and also there is the risk of bodily injuries. Those are the hazards that need to be controlled given the ‘ingredients’ that are in these trucks.”