SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Clean up began Thursday at the popular Fish Market restaurant at the Embarcadero after a fire erupted Wednesday.

The fire erupted Wednesday evening during the dinner rush and forced guests and employees to evacuate the restaurant as heavy smoke went over downtown San Diego.

Heaps of garbage were hauled away as the the heartbreak of the fire began to settle in.

"I was actually part of the opening management team here in 1989," said Dwight Colton, Vice-President of Operations for the Fish Market.

For him and many others, the Fish Market was more than just a restaurant.

"We had employees off duty come in last night. They saw it on television and offered to assist," said Colton.

Officials believe a grease build up fueled a vent fire that filled the sky. It did not take long to put out the fire.

The attic and roof took the brunt of the damage.

As the crews surveyed the damage, the fish and food the restaurant is known for also had to be taken into consideration.

"We were able to get the food product and work with San Diego County Health lat night to get what food we could out of the restaurant. What was safe to get out, we are going to donate some of that food to local charities, and make sure nothing goes to waste," said Colton.

James Floros is the CEO of the San Diego Food Bank and he said about dozen programs will get this feed the less fortunate.

"The San Diego food bank has our food rescue program and so when we have a situation when we have food that's still pretty good we can get it out in quick fashion and partner with one of our many non profit agencies and get that food out in the community helping those in need," said Floros.

As for the restaurant, it will be some time before they are open again. It is a big loss in sales, but for them, it is about people, not profits.

"It's not about money lost or sales lost. It is about lets do this safely. Lets do it right. When we are ready to open, we will open again," said Colton.

The amount of damage is estimated to be $1.2 million.