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23-year-old man arrested for arson after video captures him lighting $55K tiki hut on fire

Tiki hut was being built to become an outdoor bar
Posted at 2:57 PM, Mar 11, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. — A 23-year-old man has been arrested for arson after he admitted to lightning a $55K tiki hut on fire early Monday morning.

Surveillance video captured Austin Lee Hershey hold a lighter up to the tiki hut and light it on fire at Pete's Place North and Liquor Store located at 8603 Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa at approximately 2:07 a.m. on Monday.

Hershey was arrested Tuesday morning at approximately 4:10 a.m., according to the arrest affidavit. He was in possession of the lighter and wearing the same clothing at the time of the arrest.

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue responded to Pete's Place North & Liquor Store around 2:30 in the morning after fire could be seen coming from the roof of a tiki hut.

The department says flames were consuming the dried palm fonds which composed the entire roof area.

The owner, Pete Palori, tells ABC Action News that the hut was just put up as he was building an outdoor tiki bar area for their north location.

"It took a long time to get the money to build it, and someone destroyed it in a matter of seconds," he said.

The owner says he's saved up money for a long time to build this area, and that the hut cost him nearly $55,000.

"It was very frustrating that someone could just walk down the street, and set my place on fire for no good reason other then to cause problems," said Palori.

Hershey admitted to investigators to lighting the tiki hut on fire. He has been charged with one count of Arson First Degree Structure.