Sunday, November 28, 2010

~ 2nd Kalapana Gardens home destroyed - ignited by lava ~

Above, home engulfed in lava-ignited fire. Further down are some other images in sequence of the event.

EDIT November 29th:
If you would like to see some of the video footage I took of Jean’s sad loss of home and orchard, this highlighted link to Hawaii News Now will go right to it.

As I shared with you on yesterday’s posting, advancing fields of molten lava were approaching this occupied home all day Friday the 26th, but the lava stalled a mere twenty-feet from reaching the wood structure by 3:00 AM Saturday morning.
Entering her property on November 22nd, the lava took five days to travel 200-feet to her home:

The owner of the home slept in the house Saturday night as the Hilo Fire Department personnel stood watch outside. Police had the access road to the home blocked for all but the residents and emergency vehicles. The public viewing area was closed for a second day.

Around 4:00 PM yesterday lava was licking at one corner of the post-and-pier foundation, engulfing it by 4:30 PM and bringing the second roof of the two seperate but adjoining sections of the home to the ground by 5:30 PM.

This is the 2nd home taken out by this July Quarry Flow, the 1st being Gary Sleik’s on July 25th this year.

The following images tell yesterday's tragic story: Smoke wafts up from a house post burning on the other side at 4:00 PM. Owner gathers some favorite plants from the backyard. In the distance, above the home, we can see the lines of degassing fumes from the lava tubes carrying the lava to her house.

Fire crews do last minute look over of the premises but can do nothing to stop the lava from overtaking the house. (Twenty years earlier, during the 1990-Quarry Flow, fire crews did attempt to squelch molten lava that was advancing onto one home. The experiment did slow down the lava’s progress but ultimately the massive force of the lava could not be contained for long)

5:34 PM, Saturday, November 27, 2010


  1. Great reporting on a sad event. Thanks Leigh.

  2. I'm sorry, did you use the phrase "tragic story"? The story is interesting, fascinating even, sad perhaps, but not tragic. When you build your house knowingly on a lava field, the results by definition cannot be tragic. Sad, at the homeowners shortsightedness, and feelings of entitlement, yes, but tragic, no.

  3. @shipofthesum:
    Well aren't you all riled up about one word used!
    And you certainly have a strong judgment regarding people building on lava!--- I build on lava too; right smack-dab on the #1 East rift zone – darn shortsightedness! So that makes my property one ranking higher in likelihood of volcanic eruption than Kalapana Gardens, which is designated a lesser #2… Centuries can pass by without a lava flow on large sections of this side of the island, as it may have been before the1980’s in the Kalapana area… More threatened are Kona and Hilo — Mauna Loa is overdue for a major eruption of lava… When she lets out the molten rock it makes Kilauea look like a trickle on the best years…

    I guess we could all move to Kauai, plenty cooled off down that way.

    When that home that just burned was built there was zero lava activity in that area, and it could easily have remained that way for generations… Study a historical lava flow map of the Big Island… Assuming you live here, you might discover you are also in a danger zone, now wouldn’t that be tragic…
    ... Maybe not quite as tragic as losing your entire home and gardens in 60-minutes…

  4. I am sending my good wishes to all of you. I am giving a presentation for a college geology class that is what led me to your blog. I will be commenting on this tragedy and I am greatful for this information although I wish sincerely that it was not at you and your neighbor's expense. Hope the future delivers much cooler ground for you all.

  5. Thanks, Leigh, for the updates. Last week, we visited the big island for the first time in 8 years, and stayed at a cottage in Kalapana. Though the lava was up on the pali during the days we were there, we travelled back over from the Kona side on Sunday the 12th and had some spectacular views from a distance. We will continue to watch your blog for updates, and thank you for your reporting and marvelous photos.

    As for the loss of the home, I think that "tragedy" is a perfect word. It means "a conflict between a protagonist and a superior force, having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion." As Leigh notes, the entire island of Hawaii is built up of 'islands' of "lava flows" -- some built upon and not touched again for hundreds or thousands of years, and some places where the flows were re-inundated within years or decades of the last flow. If anything, I'd think that building on a flow well down on the coastal plain (miles from where the lava was flowing at the time) was, if anything, smarter than building somewhere that there hadn't been a recent flow. (And arguably smarter than the 10M+ people building within 100 miles of the San Andreas fault). In my mind, the nearly random re-inundation of a single location is tragic and my sympathies lie with the homeowner protagonists of the Kalapana tragedy. Hopefully the most recent flow will pass by other homes in the community.