NEWMAN - The Grille, a popular downtown Newman restaurant, was heavily damaged by fire Tuesday night.

In a press release, Fire Chief Keith Bowen said the blaze started in the kitchen area of the Fresno Street restaurant and spread to an adjacent serving and dining area. Firefighters were able to largely contain the fire and heat damage to that area of the building, Bowen told Mattos Newspapers. There was smoke damage to the remainder of the restaurant.

An apartment above the restaurant sustained minor smoke and heat damage, Bowen reported. He said the resident escaped without injury.

Bowen said the fire was reported shortly before 10:30 p.m. by police officers who were in the nearby downtown plaza.

Firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke pushing out the front doors.

Upon making entry, Bowen said, firefighters reported heavy flames and smoke coming from the kitchen area.

"They were able to get initial knockdown within approximately 30 minutes, and had the fire completely out in about 45 minutes to an hour, and then we transitioned into the mop-up phase," Bowen said.

Neighboring businesses were not affected by the fire, according to his press release.

More than two dozen firefighters from Newman and surrounding agencies, including Merced County Fire/Gustine, West Stanislaus Fire Protection District, Patterson and Mountain View responded.

Local crews remained on the scene until about 2 a.m., Bowen said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The property damage was estimated at $250,000.