Uptown residents are rallying to support a Magazine Street restaurant destroyed by fire Sunday that is under investigation as an arson, amid fears that the owner’s Iranian heritage may have been the motive.
The Flaming Torch restaurant caught fire around 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29, while owner Zohreh Khaleghi was upstairs closing for the night, she said. She escaped with her life by climbing onto the roof of a neighboring building — “I really thought, I’m not going to make it,” Khaleghi told our partners at WWL-TV.
Surveillance camera caught video of a masked man dousing the downstairs with liquid just prior to the blaze, and the New Orleans Fire Department has since said they are investigating the blaze as arson, according to the Times-Picayune. No motive has been established, but Khaleghi immigrated to the United States 27 years ago from Iran, one of the countries under President Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban, and the FBI has been contacted to determine whether the arson was a hate crime.
The door of the restaurant — which previously held only a sign stating that the restaurant was closed indefinitely because of the fire — was adorned with messages of solidarity on Friday morning, and an online fundraiser to help Khaleghi cover expenses that aren’t insured has already raised more than $4,000.