Madison Fire Dept. issues warning following Japanese restaurant fires

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)-- The Madison Fire Department is issuing a warning for restaurants after fires occurred at two Japanese restaurants.

Courtesy: Madison Fire Dept.

Investigators determined the fires that occurred at Sumo Steakhouse and Sushi Bar on April 5 and at Takara Japanese Restaurant on May 10 are both the result how a tempura "crunch" is prepared prior to being placed on sushi or other food items.

The "crunch" method is produced by using a flour batter which is deep-fried and then placed in a container to drain and cool.

Fire investigators identified the vegetable or soybean oil used to cook the "crunch" caused the fires. The oil is known to self-heat under certain circumstances. For example, rags saturated with cooking oil residue can self-heat and undergo spontaneous combustion after being laundered.

Officials say deep frying the batter and piling it into a bowl or colander to drain and cool as well as leaving it unattended overnight led to the two restaurant fires.

Fire investigators say the drained "crunch" oil is also not cooling down because of how it is stored and not allowing heat to dissipate. Those conditions can create an environment for a fire to occur.

Recommended Prevention and Safety Measures

  • When making “crunch,” DO NOT pile the product in a container where the heat can build, such as a metal colander or mesh strainer. Instead, spread out the product on a baking sheet so the heat can readily dissipate.

  • DO NOT leave the product to cool unattended.

  • Place the product under a wet-chemical fire suppression hood as it cools.

Damage from the two restaurant fires have totaled at least $575,000.

Burned "crunch"