Slow moving lava sets house ablaze in Hawaii

Lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano burns a residential structure in Hawaii. (County of Hawaii, AP)
Lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano burns a residential structure in Hawaii. (County of Hawaii, AP)

Honolulu - A stream of lava set a home on fire on Monday in a rural Hawaii town that has been watching the slow-moving flow approach for months.

The molten rock hit the house just before noon, said Hawaii County civil defence director Darryl Oliveira. The home's renters already had left the residence in Pahoa, the largest town in Big Island's isolated and mostly agricultural Puna district.

Earlier in the day, lava burned down a small corrugated steel storage shed on the property, Oliveira said.

The lava from Kilauea volcano emerged from a vent in June and entered Pahoa on 26 October, when it crossed a country road at the edge of town. Since then, it has smothered part of a cemetery and burned down a garden shed. It also burned tires, some metal materials and mostly vegetation in its path.

Fire-fighters will basically let a structure burn, but they will fight any wildfires that spread or threaten other structures, Oliveira said.

The county estimates the value of the home at about $200 000, Oliveira said.

Oliveira said officials would make arrangements for homeowners to watch any homes burn as a means of closure and to document the destruction for insurance purposes.

The leading edge of the molten rock had stalled on 30 October, but lava was breaking away at several spots upslope. The leading edge remained about 150m from Pahoa Village Road, the main street that goes through downtown.

Crews have been working on alternate routes to be used when lava hits a major highway in a lifeline for the Puna district.

Many residents have evacuated or are ready to leave if necessary.

Imelda Raras lives on the other end of Apaa Street from where the lava burned its first house. She and her family have put a lot of their belongings in storage and are prepared to go to a friend's home if the lava gets close.

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