An auto repair shop caught fire Sunday morning at the edge of downtown Sacramento, sending dark smoke billowing into the sky, attracting throngs of onlookers and forcing cancellation of Easter brunch at a popular restaurant.
The fire at the Japanese Imports Service & Repair, at the northwest corner of 17th and J streets, left much of the repair shop a charred hulk. Much of the roof was completely destroyed, and firefighters were quick to hose down vehicles that had been stored over the weekend for repair.
Firefighters said they were particularly concerned about preventing the fire from spreading to adjacent businesses, including the American Graffiti tattoo parlor and Lucca Restaurant and Bar.
Chris Harvey, a spokesman for the Sacramento fire department, said firefighters were able to contain the fire and keep it from damaging other businesses. However, the fire did considerable harm to artists’ murals on Improv Alley behind the repair shop.
In addition, Lucca had to cancel Easter brunch because power was cut to its building. The restaurant suffered mild smoke and water damage, and the skylights overlooking a back room were melted, said co-owner Ron Gilliland.
About 500 patrons had made reservations, he said.
“It’s heartbreaking that we have all these people for Easter Sunday and we can’t take care of them,” Gilliland said. He placed a portable wind machine on the sidewalk outside the restaurant to begin airing it out.
Firefighters said the nature of the fire – at an auto repair business – made the blaze particularly dicey.
“We had vehicles inside ... plastics, rubber, gasoline,” Harvey said. “It’s burning hot.”
Harvey said firefighters were told the business caught fire two years ago, but he had no additional information on that.
The shop was closed for business when the fire started and it’s believed no one was inside, Harvey added.
The fire broke out at around 10 a.m., and was spotted by a fire engine crew that happened to be passing by. Within an hour, at least a half dozen fire engines and other emergency vehicles were on the scene. Harvey said about 70 firefighters took part in the effort, including those assisting from West Sacramento's fire department.
Police spokesman Matt McPhail said a man was detained for interfering with firefighters at the scene.