Charlottetown farmers market food vendors ordered to improve ventilation

A half dozen food vendors at Charlottetown's farmers' market are scrambling to come up with thousands of dollars to buy new ventilation equipment, after being ordered to do so by the city's fire inspector. 

Inspector Winston Bryan says he made the order back in April, after responding to a complaint by a father and son visiting the market that the air was "smokey."

"They didn't have a good experience," said Bryan. "Unfortunately their eyes were burning and they felt it wasn't safe."

Bryan says he visited the market the following Saturday and determined the six food vendors — who all cook with hot grease and oils — need the range hoods to minimize the "combustible vapours" getting into the air. 

Steve Bruce/CBC

"It's a risk that has to be addressed," he said.  "The commercial range hoods … when you're cooking underneath it, all the vapours, all the fumes, go up into the exhaust hood.  And if something was to happen — the ignition of these fumes —  the extinguishing mechanisms in place will extinguish it right there."

Bryan says the market's manager and the vendors have until the end of June to come up with a purchasing plan and a timeline for getting the new equipment installed. 

"It can be a significant expense. We're looking at ten thousand dollars per unit," said Bernie Plourde, the market's manager.

Steve Bruce/CBC

Plourde says they may look at putting the six vendors together in a row, in hopes they can all share fewer range hoods. 

He's hoping they'll be able to access some government funding as well. 

Looking for solutions

Vendor Stephen Nowell, known as "The Breakfast Guy," says as long as he and the others can come up with a plan to make it affordable, he will obey the fire inspector's order, albeit reluctantly.  

"It came as a shock. I think we've been trundling along for many, many years and nothing bad has ever happened because of the cooking in the market," said Nowell. 

"I would say to whoever brought that complaint to the market, I would think if this place really upsets you, you should go to the Superstore where the smells aren't so prevalent."

Steve Bruce/CBC

Plourde appears more understanding. 

"I guess for the safety of the market it is best to have as up to date systems as possible," he said. "The market is 33 years old, so it's a growing phase that we're going through."

Steve Bruce/CBC

The fire inspector says aside from the ventilation issue, the farmers' market is "fully up to code," and that vendors and customers should still feel safe inside, even without the new equipment. 

"We're just working to better the situation at the farmers' market in Charlottetown," he said. 

More P.E.I. news