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Some residents refuse to leave Leilani Estates

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DAN NAKASO / DNAKASO@STARADVERTISER.COM In this screen capture from a video, Leilani Estates resident Scott Wiggers describes staying behind after evacuation orders were given to leave the area.
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Lava crept over the yard of a house on Luana Street.

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A fissure split the pavement of Kaupili Street on Monday at Leilani Estates.

PAHOA, Hawaii >> While Julie Figoni heeded Civil Defense warnings to evacuate in the face of a volcanic eruption, her husband, John, refuses to budge.

John Figoni, 56, has never seen anything like the Kilauea eruptions that began Thursday in the couple’s Leilani Estates neighborhood — and certainly nothing like the spectacular fountain of lava that shot out of the ground in the middle of Leilani Avenue on Sunday afternoon.

And, yet, even though Figoni watched lava burn three of his neighbors’ houses on nearby Makamae Street on Sunday, he’s staying put at his home on Kahukai Street.

Figoni insists that he understands the risks: More eruptions could break out at any moment; more homes could burn; more deadly sulfur dioxide could pour into the air; and more earthquakes might trigger a tsunami.

Through it all, Figoni remains defiant.

“I understand,” he said. “I stayed behind because everything I own is here. I have no place to go. I’m self-sufficient.”

Figoni and his neighbor on Kahukai Street, Scott Wiggers, estimate that dozens of their neighbors are also choosing to ride out Kilauea’s latest threat.

Figoni estimates there are at least 50 others like him; Wiggers thinks the number might be 30 or so.

Wiggers, 53, 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 Hawaiian Volcano Observatory are making no such promises — and have said the dangers can continue for days, weeks and possibly months.

Just as a precaution, though, Wiggers has his Ford F-150 truck packed and ready to roll.

“I’m not a dum-dum,” he said.

Many more residents are taking the warnings seriously.

John Moylan and his sons Mathias and Marcus were finally able to see their their three-bedroom, two-bath home on two acres of land on Hookupu Street for the first time Monday.

It was the second day in a row that residents were allowed back in to retrieve belongings since Thursday’s mandatory evacuation. But the Moylans weren’t able to navigate the hours-long traffic jam to get into Leilani Estates on time Sunday.

With 10 children, John Moylan isn’t taking any chances — especially after he came back and saw that lava had spewed just two lots away, or a distance of 200 yards.

“It’s our home, it’s our (home-based) business,” Moylan said. “We have a health nutritional business, a yard service, made pizzas. … My wife sells jams. It’s all gone. We’re starting all over again, is all I can say. We’ll take it one day at a time.”

Son Marcus Moylan, 18, was just happy to get another look at the family home.

“The lava’s only two houses away,” he said. “I didn’t expect our house to be there.”

As long as Figoni’s house is standing, he vows to stay behind with the couple’s three bull terrier dogs while Julie, who tends bar in Hilo, stays with friends in Hilo.

Asked whether it was hard for Julie to leave while her husband stayed behind, John Figoni said, “Oh yeah. Oh yeah.”

Still, Figoni is impressed by what’s happening around him.

On Monday, as he stood next to two mounds of cooling lava on Luana Avenue, Figoni said he’s never seen Kilauea erupt this way.

“Never, ever. Never, no,” he said.

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.”

Hot steam continued to rise out of the cooling, black mounds, which remained hot to the touch and lay across downed power lines. Red-hot lava continued to ooze from lava flows on Hookupu Street and also had buried several utility lines.

So if lava comes after his house, Figoni said, “You can’t do nothing.”

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

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