NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Investigators say an arsonist set fire to the Flaming Torch Restaurant. The owner is lucky she made it out alive. It happened Sunday night at the Octavia Street eatery off Magazine Street.
"It's not the food. It's the character and personality a restaurant has that keeps them coming," said Zorhreh Khaleghi, remembering what made her business special.
She said the fire started in the dining room. Flames wiped out the cozy fine dining French restaurant. She was inside when her dreams went up in smoke.
"It was Sunday night. I closed the restaurant," she said. "I was doing my inventory and I went up to the office and suddenly I saw smoke coming to the office."
The camera in the dining room was destroyed by fire, but she says a kitchen camera captured an arsonist at work.
"A guy came in the kitchen, put a tank in his hands and throwing it everywhere," she said.
He was throwing gasoline in full protective gear. Khaleghi said he was even wearing a gas mask. She said her office is on the second floor and she couldn't see anything. She only saw smoke traveling very fast.
Her only escape was through a door that led to the roof. She crossed over to another roof and managed to call 911. Her kids were at the movies.
"They said they brought her down from the rooftop and she's safe. Just imagine what I was going through reading a text saying that," said her son Ali Khadeghi.
She said investigators mentioned the possibility of a hate crime. She doesn't want to believe it.
"I'm an American citizen. With all the calling and support I have it's been wonderful," she said.
Khaleghi is an Iranian national. Her husband and partner in the restaurant passed away two years ago. Her family is determined not to let the flames scorch the memory of they built together.
"It happened. We'll keep moving forward one day at a time and just go from there, you know?