A car rammed into the back of a Santa Monica restaurant’s building Wednesday morning, sparking a fire that injured one person and prompting the closure of Montana Avenue and the shutdown of gas lines as crews worked to put out the flames.

Firefighters responded to Cafe de Paris after receiving multiple reports of a fire involving a car and building at 8:17 a.m., officials said.

The car “went through” the rear of the restaurant’s building, according to a press release from the Santa Monica Fire Department. Flames and smoke could be seen rising from the white structure, which is on Montana Avenue between 7th Street and Lincoln Boulevard.

The driver of the car was identified as Yelena Zabokritsky, a 46-year-old Santa Monica resident who told Santa Monica police officers that she pushed the gas pedal instead of using the brake while parking the car.

A employee of Cafe de Paris sustained minor injuries after being struck by merchandise that fell on her leg, officials said. She was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation.

The response included 42 firefighters from the Santa Monica and Los Angeles fire departments, according to the release. No firefighters were injured in the incident.

Firefighters worked from inside the restaurant to prevent the fire from spreading, but officials reported “significant” damage to two businesses. The adjacent eatery, Spumoni Italian Restaurant, sustained smoke and water damage, authorities said.

The car “severed the gas main” of the building, according to a report from the Santa Monica Police Department. As of 11:35 a.m., gas company representatives were still on the scene to confirm that all gas sources had been shut off.

Montana Avenue was closed to traffic as officials investigated the fire. The popular shopping area hosts several restaurants, cafes, bakeries and retail shops.

Cafe de Paris, a French-themed eatery that serves breakfast and lunch, was open when the fire broke out. Attempts to reach cafe executives were not successful Wednesday.

Cafe de Paris is the sister restaurant of Champs Elysees in Beverly Hills, which chef-owner Philippe Blanchet opened in 1999.

The incident happened just blocks from where the explosion of an electrical transformer last year caused a fire and led to evacuations in the area near Montana Avenue and 2nd Street.

Wednesday’s blaze was the latest in a string of structure fires in commercial buildings in the city. In June, heat from the wood-burning oven at Tar & Roses caused a fire that led to the temporary closure of the popular restaurant. Earlier this month, crews closed off Main Street to respond to a building fire near the intersection of Marine Street.


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