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Hawaii News

Residents feel safe despite lava but chafe at government controls

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Pete Wilson embraced his wife, Bo Breda, at a friend’s house in Leilani Estates where they now live. The couple’s Leilani Estates home was declared off-limits Friday. Wilson and Breda are among an estimated 70 people still living in Leilani Estates. “We make our own decisions. We know what the situation is,” Wilson said.

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Above, Andy Andrews, with fellow resident and Leilani Community Association President Jay Turkovsky, entering an outdoor kitchen Wednesday. Pam and Andy Andrews remain at their home despite warnings by Hawaii County officials to evacuate and a nightime curfew. “We don’t see any reason why this curfew was necessary and certainly why it’s still necessary,” Andy Andrews said.

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Andy and Pam Andrews spent five years building their custom Leilani Estates home.

PAHOA >> Pete Wilson doesn’t like being called a holdout.

Like many of his neighbors who continue to live in the 2,246-acre rural Leilani Estates subdivision 35 days after lava began threatening and destroying homes there, Wilson is just trying live as close to a normal life as possible with his wife.

But lately, it’s become increasingly difficult and frustrating — and not because of lava flows, sulfur dioxide gas or cinders raining down from a sometimes 200-foot-high fountain of red lava near the middle of Leilani.

For Wilson, a 72-year-old retired computer network analyst who thinks of himself more as a “hold-in,” the bigger stress and pressure on life nowadays is from county government restrictions over the community where there were about 750 homes and an estimated 70 or so residents remain.

Those restrictions include a curfew preventing residents from entering the subdivision after 6 p.m. and before 7 a.m.

“Why are we being treated like naughty children?” asked Wilson’s wife, Bo Breda. “It’s disrupting lives. You can’t go to work at night. You can’t go to (visit) your friends for dinner. I’m not 13 and I don’t need a 6 o’clock curfew.”

Some things residents are dealing with include being ticketed for parking on the sides of certain roads if it is deemed to be blocking an evacuation route.

A week ago, residents who were comfortable in their homes not far from the most productive source of lava, fissure 8, were told they were too close. Residents in this area east of Pomaikai Street had their electricity turned off by Hawaii Electric Light Co. and face arrest if they even visit.

And on Tuesday, Gov. David Ige issued a supplemental emergency proclamation instituting new housing expansion and law enforcement measures “to ensure the health and safety of the people who have been most affected by the ongoing Kilauea eruption.”

The proclamation established criminal penalties for failing to evacuate, violating curfew, interfering with emergency personnel and failing to comply with “reasonable directions of emergency personnel.”

“We’re more afraid of Civil Defense and HELCO than the lava,” said Andy Andrews, a Leilani resident who helped start a petition to end the curfew. The petition has 38 signatures, or about half of Leilani’s estimated remaining population.

Hawaii County spokeswoman Janet Synder said the lava, which is flowing quickly in a channel through part of the subdivision on its way to the ocean at Kapoho, still poses a big danger. “There’s still a threat of inundation/emissions in Leilani,” she said, adding that a restricted area established June 1 east of Pomaikai Street is pretty much gone.

CLOSE TO 100 homes in Leilani have been destroyed by lava. Establishing the new restricted zone followed two nights of new lava movement that touched off emergency response and at least one rescue. The county said first responders should not have their lives put at risk to help residents of Leilani, all of whom were told to evacuate when the eruptions began May 3.

Jay Turkovsky, Leilani Community Association president, lived in a home on Moku Street, three streets over and north of fissure 8 until June 1, when he was given about 24 hours notice that residents in the area would be subject to arrest if they stayed.

Turkovsky said the notice, especially when factoring in the curfew hours, didn’t give him much time to arrange a new place to stay or to remove many personal belongings. He even had to leave behind his two cats when and his wife, Gloria, went to stay at a Hilo bed-and-breakfast owned by his sister.

ONE THING he did remove was a freezer filled with hundreds of dollars worth of meat from Costco that would have rotted at his house because HELCO disconnected power to the streets in the no-go zone. Turkovsky moved the freezer to Andrews’ carport.

Gloria Turkovsky said cutting the power almost seemed mean-spirited. “There was no reason to have that happen,” she said.

These Leilani residents say they stay for a host of reasons.

Some built their homes with their own hands, making their residences more than a commodity.

Many of the 1-acre house lots are stunningly beautiful, resembling manicured plots within a tropical forest bursting with color and fruit trees.

Another reason they give is that they don’t want to compete for housing elsewhere against people who fled because they lost their homes or feared staying.

Community association members still go on neighborhood watch patrols. They mow the grass regularly along street shoulders. They are also leaving pet food and water on the edges of the restriction zone in hopes that animals left behind won’t starve to death.

Perhaps most importantly, they feel safe.

Andrews, who lives a half mile from fissure 8, said he has never felt the need to put on a gas mask.

Wilson and his wife, Bo, were forced to move because their home was in the new restricted zone east of Pomaikai Street. But they arranged to housesit for friends in a more remote part of the neighborhood in a house that is partly a work of art with giant ohia posts and carved beams.

“We stayed because we are adults,” he said. “We make our own decisions. We know what the situation is.”

Turkovsky, the community association president whose home also is off limits now, recently arranged to move back to Leilani with his wife to housesit for friends who depart soon for a summer trip to Alaska.

“We’re excited,” he said. “We’re among our neighbors and friends.”

>> Kilauea dashes Oahu newlyweds’ dreams
>> Governor signs proclamation on housing and criminal penalties
>> Lava buries Vacationland, pours into ocean
>> Website to centralize Big Island air quality reporting
>> Kilauea eruption harms up to half of Malama Ki forest reserve
>> Volcanoes National Park’s most important facility damaged by quake
>> Fire helicopter rescues woman, her pet rabbit and chicken isolated by lava
>> 18 arrested in past week for loitering in lava zone
>> Man charged with running Puna checkpoint near approaching lava

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