PUNA, Hawaii – As the last remnants of Puʻu Kahaualeʻa are being buried by the June 27th lava flow, the state land board is considering a request to extend the closure of the Kahaualeʻa Natural Area Reserve.
The Kahauale‘a NAR has been inundated by lava flows several times during the 32 year eruption of Kilauea volcano’s middle east rift zone vents: Pu‘u ‘O‘o, Kupaianaha, and the Thanksgiving Eve Breakout (TEB). The State of Hawaii closed the Kahauale‘a NAR to public access on July 25, 2007, “due to public safety concerns relating to unprepared visitors attempting to visit an active lava flow and an active volcanic area and the heightened risk of sulfur dioxide inhalation.”
Last year, arrests were made to enforce the closure. At that time lava from the June 27th lava flow threatened the Ka’ohe Homesteads subdivision and the town of Pahoa. Interest in hiking out to see the lava in Kahauale‘a was high.
On Friday May 22, 2015 the Board of Land and Natural Resources will vote on a DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife proposal to extend the closure for an additional two years, from July 25, 2015 through July 25, 2017. The closure is supported by the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and the Hawai‘i County Civil Defense.
The magnificence and spectacular nature of the eruption and lava flow phenomenon is acknowledged and appreciated however, the hazards and risks associated with the eruption and unique topographical features presents with challenges and concerns with allowing access. The lava flow activity is a very alluring attraction that often overshadows the hazards that are present in the environment and may also entice individuals to enter and traverse areas without regards for the aforementioned dangers. This not only exposes these individuals to risk for injury or worse. but also places would be first responders summoned to their aid at risk to these same conditions.Darryl Oliveira, Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency