CAMPBELL RIVER -- Patrons of a popular downtown Campbell River restaurant are shocked and saddened at the loss of a favourite sushi spot after it went up in flames Sunday evening.

"I found out this morning at about 6:30 (a.m.). My buddy told me it had burned down. I was kind of shocked about it because Campbell River doesn't have much for good sushi places anymore." said long-time customer Casey Nystrom.

"It's a lot of people's favourite restaurant, you can't beat it and it just kind of sucks," added another customer, Chris Janicki.

"Unfortunately for Campbell River residents, we're down one sushi restaurant," he said.

Crews responded to the fire at Miki's Sesame Sushi on the Island Highway shortly after 10 p.m., after receiving several 911 calls about the restaurant and building being on fire.

"The first truck arrived on scene, heavy smoke and fire (was) showing from the second floor," said Campbell River fire chief Thomas Doherty.

"Crews deployed a couple of attack lines right away from the exterior, knocked the fire down and we transitioned to an interior attack and got in to hit all the hot spots," he said.

Doherty says 22 firefighters utilized two aerial devices and three other fire units to battle the blaze, which was confined primarily to the restaurant's kitchen area but was in danger of spreading.

"Being a restaurant, the cooking hood system ventilates up into the roof area and so when we arrived we had fire showing up on the roof as well through that exhaust system," Doherty said.

A sprinkler system within the building helped prevent the fire from spreading but contributed to some of the water damage experienced below the restaurant while smoke damage occurred above.

The building, located in the 800-block of the Island Highway, is also home to an insurance broker, dental facility, teacher's association and the Centre for Aquatic Health research facility.

"We've sent in a few people with respirators on and it's looking pretty wet with water damage and smoke damage," said the Centre for Aquatic Health’s interim managing director, Jim Brackett.

Brackett says the centre is just entering its busy season and that the dozen employees who work there are now trying to think of ways to keep operating.

"It's not easy because we have power requirements and the testing is all done under quality standards, so it's not just as easy as finding square feet to set up in. But we're optimistic," he said.

The centre's sophisticated testing equipment will have to be removed from the building, dried out in a facility and then re-calibrated before it can be reused.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.