GRFD checks food trucks for fire safety

Grand Rapids Fire Department, food truck
Grand Rapids Fire Department Lt. Bill Smith checks out the Moveable Feast food truck. (June 29, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — They’ve become a common sight on the streets of Grand Rapids: food trucks lining up in places like Rosa Parks Circle.

24 Hour News 8 got a chance to go inside one of the trucks to show you the effort to make sure they’re fire safe.

Restaurant fire safety inspection are nothing new to Grand Rapids Fire Department Lt. Bill Smith.

“The hood is correct. The suppression nozzles are pointing in the right direction, so that’s a win,” Smith pointed out as he walked through the cooking area of the Moveable Feast truck park Thursday. “Everything is to code and that’s what we could hope for.”

Thanks to rule changes from city hall, the food truck trend in Grand Rapids has taken hold. GRFD has taken notice.

The department started an aggressive inspection program after Smith noticed the trucks lined up on Rosa Parks Circle one day in 2015 when they were limited in where they could operate. Smith knew it would not be a passing fad.

“We started looking across the nation to come up with a program that we thought might fit here if and when we decided to go with the inspection process,” Smith said.

Among the biggest concerns with the rolling restaurants is the propane that fuels the cooking process.

“Your propane looks good. Everything’s full. Hoses look confident,” Smith said as he checked connections on the Moveable Feast truck.

One loose connection on a tank could spell disaster.

“It’s just like a bomb going off,” Smith said. “So we want to make sure those bottles are competent, that they’re tested.”

Another issue he has seen is the way some of the trucks are constructed.

“We’re finding, unfortunately, that some of the food truck operators have purchased, sight unseen, some of these food trucks, and they were done by, we’ll call them, handymen that probably weren’t licensed,” Smith said.

Before a trucks gets a city license to operate, inspectors also look at plumbing, generators, electrical connections, deep fryers, and even make sure the trucks are road worthy.

“If we can do that before they’re operational and they’re out there selling their wares, that’s great. That’s what we want,” Smith said.

The GRFD also conducts surprise inspections on the 35 trucks licensed so far by the city.

The program has been well received by truck operators.

“Nobody wants an incident Fire department, food trucks — nobody wants anything negative to happen,” said Moveable Feast owner Brennan Summers, who’s also founder and president of the Grand Rapids Food Truck Association.

“Anything we can do to prevent that, I think we’re pretty much on board with,” he added.

The fire department is also holding classes for food trucks owners to make sure they know what to expect before the inspections.

If you’re an interested food truck owner, you can contact Smith via email at, or by phone at 616.456.3939.