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Some Leilani Estates residents stay put despite evacuation order

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Video taken by USGS.
Video taken by USGS.
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In this screen capture from a video shot today, Leilani Estates resident Scott Wiggers describes staying behind after evacuation orders were given to leave the area.

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Residents continue to evacuate as lava continues to overrun Hookupu street today on Hawaii island.

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A garden of a home on Luana Street is overrun by lava today in Leilani Estates on Hawaii island.

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An offering is seen near lava on Hookupu Street today in Pahoa.

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The summit lava lake has dropped significantly over the past few days. This very wide angle camera view captures the entire north portion of the Overlook crater.

PAHOA, Hawaii >> As the number of buildings destroyed by lava climbed to 35 this morning, worried residents were allowed to line up for hours along Highway 130 for a second day to get back into Leilani Estates and retrieve their belongings — even as lava continued to smolder near their homes.

John Figoni, 56, refused to evacuate his two bedroom, two-bath home on three acres along Kahukai Street and watched lava burn three of his neighbors’ houses on nearby Makamae Street on Sunday.

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This morning, as he stood next to two mounds of cooling lava on Luana Avenue, Figoni said he’s never seen a Kilauea eruption behave this way.

On Sunday, spectacular fountains of 2,000-degree lava shot into the sky at the end of nearby Leilani Avenue — unlike any lava flow Figoni has ever seen.

“Never, ever, never, no,” Figoni said.

His neighbor, Scott Wiggers, described the sound of Sunday’s eruption on Leilani Avenue as “a roaring jet engine, baby.”

It was a sound that Wiggers had “never” heard before.

“It’s just incredible,” Wiggers said. “That’s the main difference between what we’re seeing now compared to the 2014 flow.”

Red-hot lava continued to ooze from lava flows on Ho’okupu Street and had buried several utility lines.

Hot steam continued to rise out of the cooling, black mounds, which remained hot to the touch.

Despite the on-going threat of more fissures opening up, sending sulfur dioxide into the air — along with earthquakes that could trigger a tsunami — Wiggers said he feels in no danger. So he refuses to leave his three-bedroom, three-bath home on two acres on Kahukai Street.

“I’m at the very top” of Leilani Estates, Wiggers said. “There’s no threat to my home or my property. The air quality is pure.”

Hawaii County officials and scientists at the nearby Hawaii Volcano Observatory are making no such promises.

A second community meeting since Thursday’s eruptions is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. today in the Pahoa High and Intermediate School cafeteria.

Gov. David Ige is scheduled to attend tonight’s community meeting in Pahoa, according to Ige’s spokeswoman, Jodi Leong.

While Figoni chose to stay at home with his three bull terrier dogs, his wife, Julie, tends bar in Hilo and decided to evacuate and stay with friends. Asked if it was hard for Julie to leave while Figoni stayed behind, Figoni said, “Oh yeah. Oh yeah.”

“I talk to her every couple of hours,” Figoni said.

He has no idea how many other neighbors are refusing to evacuate, but believes it’s easily 50 — if not more.

Asked about all of the on-going risks to his life and to his home, Figoni said, “I understand. I stayed behind because everything I own is here. I have no place to go. I’m self-sufficient.”

Even if the lava comes for the couple’s house, Figoni said, “You can’t do nothing.”

“When the good Lord wants me, he can come to take me,” Figoni said.

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