A lava flow came within about 100 feet of two homes in the Kalapana Gardens subdivision yesterday, prompting officials to close a viewing area on Highway 130 and turn away hundreds of people who had come out to see the fiery show.
"I did promise the residents that I wasn’t going to make a show of their houses burning," said Quince Mento, Big Island Civil Defense administrator. "I’m not taking a chance."
The viewing area could reopen as early as today.
Mento said residents in Kalapana Gardens have self-evacuated or are packed up and ready to leave.
Firefighters, police and civil defense officials are monitoring the flow’s progress.
Last night, the lava was not flowing toward the homes, but Mento was concerned it could change direction at any time.
Lava from Kilauea already destroyed one Kalapana Gardens home last Sunday.
Access to the subdivision, where there are about 30 homes, has been blocked to all but residents.
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said yesterday that lava from the flow continues to enter the ocean at two spots southwest of Kalapana Gardens.
At the western ocean entry, the lava has built a delta that is about 1,000 feet wide, the observatory said.
The lava viewing area on Highway 130 is located about a half-mile from the flow.
Yesterday, private security guards turned away hundreds of spectators headed to the vantage point.
Frank Commendador, president of Jan-Guard Hawaii, which is providing security at Kalapana Gardens, said about 2,000 people are coming out daily to see the lava.
The crowds have been a big nuisance for Kalapana residents. Air tours, flying low over homes, also create an irking din.
Civil Defense has asked the Federal Aviation Administration to establish a no-fly zone over the subdivision.