Fatal fire prompts hearing for grease-cleaning regulations
March 26, 2008 01:17 PM

By Donovan Slack, Globe Staff

The Boston City Council plans to hold a public hearing before passing a new law proposed by the mayor to regulate companies who clean grease from restaurant kitchens, the council said today.

The legislation, which would require formal certification of commercial grease cleaners, comes seven months after two Boston firefighters died in a grease fire at the Tai Ho restaurant in West Roxbury.

"I think this is a great piece of legislation coming out of the tragedy last August," said Councilor Stephen Murphy, who chairs the council's Public Safety Committee.

But Murphy said it may need some tweaking before passage. For example, he said he wants to make sure that city inspectors have the resources they need to enforce the law.

Under the proposed ordinance, inspectors are responsible for meting out penalties to non-certified cleaners and restaurants who hire them. Violators could be fined up to $200 per day and restaurants could be shut down.

The measure was referred to the council's Government Operations Committee, which will hold the hearing before the full council votes on the legislation. Murphy asked during today's council meeting that the committee act quickly.

"The quicker we can get something on the books, the safer we will be with this industry," he said.

Currently, grease-cleaning companies are not licensed or regulated in Massachusetts, something that industry specialists say has given way to sloppy cleaning and fire hazards, such as that in the Tai Ho.

The restaurant owner hired J&B Cleaning of Roslindale to remove grease from cooking equipment in June last year, three months before the fire, but a receipt indicates that J&B cleaned the stove and a roof vent, but not the kitchen exhaust pipe.

Fire investigators determined that grease from the pipe seeped into the kitchen ceiling and ignited, causing the fatal blaze. Firefighters Paul J. Cahill and Warren Payne died in the Aug. 29 blaze.

Donovan Slack can be reached at