SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) – The popular Fish Market restaurant at the Embarcadero is closed Thursday morning, after a fire erupted forcing an evacuation of the business and sending heavy smoke over downtown San Diego.

The fire broke out during the dinner rush around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, while the restaurant was full with guests, who were quickly rushed out to the parking lot before firefighters arrived at the scene.

The fire started in the attic, but it was hard to access because of heating and air conditioning vents. Fire crews believe grease build-up in the vents started the flames. 

"We located a grease fire in the vent system in the attic space," said Dennis Clay with San Diego Fire-Rescue.

Cooks, servers, and restaurant staff also huddled around the scene.

"Me and my family had just ordered our food when a man started coming down the stairs 'yelling, get out, get out,'” said customer Sofia Ramirez. "There was so much commotion that I did not even know if the guy that was yelling at us to get out was from the Fish Market."

The Hooper family from Alabama was in the back of the restaurant facing the harbor when the fire broke out.

"I was like do I stop and roll, or do I get out," said Greg Hooper's daughter, Kelsey, who has been through fire drills at school.

The family rushed out of the restaurant and saw smoke spewing from the kitchen.

"It was kind of scary, but they did it all calmly. Nobody really panicked," she said.

The Fish Market CEO said emergency drills are in place.

"We ordered an evacuation and that was done very quickly," said Jim Wendler, The Fish Market CEO.

No one was injured and fire crews took about 15 to 20 minutes to put out the fire.

The first and second floors sustained heavy water and smoke damage. The amount of damage is estimated to be $1.2 million. Dwight Colton, the Vice President of Operations, said the damage will be covered by insurance, but it could be weeks before their grand re-opening.

The Fish Market is donating any safe produce and other edibles to the San Diego Food Bank to feed the homeless and struggling families.