Charges: Owner started restaurant on fire with customers still inside

The owner has been charged with first-degree arson and insurance fraud.
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Caribou Grill

A 50-year-old woman in northwest Minnesota has been accused of starting a fire at the restaurant she owns.

According to KittsonArea.com, six fire departments were called to the Caribou Grill in Hallock on the night of Feb. 21, after a fire was reported by customers who were in the bar at the time. 

The owner of the restaurant, Tamara Marie DeVore, 50, of nearby Kennedy, Minnesota, has now been charged with first-degree arson and felony insurance fraud in connection to the fire. 

A criminal complaint states that "patrons narrowly escaped in front of a heavy and toxic smoke front," from the fire, which started in a storage closet where fire investigators found no ignition sources capable of producing heat or flames.

A later review of security footage inside the restaurant showed DeVore going in and out of the storage closet several times during the course of the evening, with the last time  just minutes before the fire erupted. 

Only two other employees entered the storage room before the fire, and both came out with cases of alcohol from the beer cooler. The last employee working in the kitchen goes home for the day at 9:50 p.m., leaving DeVore as the last worker on site. 

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At 10:21 p.m., DeVore is seen on surveillance footage leaving the storage room for the last time. Two minutes and eight seconds later, heavy smoke obscures the camera and a 911 call is made by one of the bar patrons. 

"For this rapid expansion to occur, the fire would have had to been burning while the Defendant was in the storage room," says the criminal complaint. "No one else was in the vicinity of that room for over 30 minutes prior to the fire, other than the Defendant."

DeVore later told police that she started the fire and then contacted her insurance agent to file a claim. 

No one was injured in the fire. 

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