The Carlitos Café y Cantina restaurant had minor damage after an early morning grease fire in the kitchen, the Santa Barbara City Fire Department said.  (Santa Barbara City Fire Department photo)

A small grease fire broke out early Tuesday morning in the kitchen of a downtown Santa Barbara restaurant, but fire crews were able to contain the blaze before it spread to the rest of the building.

Around 2 a.m., Santa Barbara City Fire crews were dispatched to Carlitos Café y Cantina, 1324 State St., after reports came through that smoke alarms were ringing in the area, said Amber Anderson, a public information officer for City Fire. 

As they arrived, firefighters noticed a light haze of smoke inside the building, and forced entry into the restaurant.

An active grease fire was burning on the kitchen range stove, and firefighters used the restaurant’s fire extinguishers to knock down the blaze, Anderson said. A thermal imaging camera was also used to make sure the fire had not spread throughout the building.

“An investigator was called and later determined the fire to be caused by the release of natural gas at the range which was ignited by a nearby pilot light,” Anderson said.

A small flash fire broke out when residual grease was ignited around the stove, as well as on a plastic prep board.

The quick fire response limited damages from the fire, which could have been much larger, Anderson said. The blaze never grew large enough to activate the automatic fire extinguishing system located under the kitchen hood.

A restaurant manager confirmed that the damage was minimal and that the restaurant would be open for business Tuesday.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at lcooper@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper

— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at lcooper@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.