Heavy black smoke started pouring from the Fish Market Restaurant Wednesday evening, covering a portion of the San Diego Embarcadero in a haze.
About 160 customers and 75 employees streamed out of the building as it was evacuated at 6:20 p.m. The fire began to spread in the restaurant's top floor at 750 North Harbor Drive, just south of USS Midway.
"There was at least a good five-foot, 10-foot flame coming out from the top," said Alex Worth, an employee.
Visitor Sophia Ramirez said she had just ordered her food when a man ran down the stairs, yelling "Get out!"
"That's when everyone started getting mobilized; everyone started running out, panicking and you could kind of, by that time, feel the smoke in the air and kind of see it a little bit," said Ramirez.
[G] Fire at Fish Market on San Diego Bay
Firefighters quickly jumped on the roof, cutting holes for ventilation. The initial flames had sparked a couple of smaller fires, officials said, but all were confined to the attic.
The fire was extinguished by 6:45 p.m., and investigators believe grease in a kitchen hood vent system in the attic set the restaurant ablaze. No one was injured.
In the end, the fire caused about $1.2 million in damage, including smoke and water damage to the first and second floors.
Employees said they were told to go home for the evening because the restaurant will not be reopened for some time. It's unclear how long it will be closed.
"It's one of my favorite restaurants also," said San Diego Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief Dennis Clay. "Sort of sad to see something like that happen to some place like this."
One worker told NBC 7 he had experienced three evacuations there, and this was the worst.
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