PAHOA — Two Hawaii residents have been arrested for trespassing to see lava, police said Friday amid growing interest from people eager to witness the slow-moving flow.
Hawaii County police said officers saw a man and a woman on county property Thursday taking photos within 5 feet of the lava in the small town of Pahoa.
The 65-year-old woman and 59-year-old man had two golf clubs that had been dipped in lava, which had hardened on the clubs, police said. They crossed private property to get to the spot where they watched the lava.
Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira said the county is restricting the public’s access to the lava flow to keep people safe.
“It’s unfortunate. We would hope we wouldn’t have to take steps to enforce the rules,” Oliveira told reporters.
He said the lava is currently in people’s backyards. The county may be able to enable public viewing if and when it enters public land, he said.
But authorities need to be able to manage the situation. In 1990, when lava poured into Kalapana on the Big Island’s southern coast, parked cars lined the roads and people crowded in to watch.
Tourists and Big Island residents have been streaming into Pahoa for a glimpse of the lava since the flow edged closer to the town’s main road. The influx of people has been giving restaurants extra business.
Glen Bousquet, a tree trimmer from the nearby community of Nanawale, said he hiked to the flow multiple times since the weekend and trespassed to do so. He followed the glow through 6-foot-tall grass, he said.
“’It’s so interesting to see nature unfolding. It’s like a once in a lifetime chance to actually see it up close and personal without having to wait for it to be on TV,” he said. “You kind of get the real deal.”
Though he trespassed, he said he did so with “the utmost respect” and didn’t break any fences or otherwise harm anyone’s property.
But he said won’t go back because he doesn’t want to get arrested.
Josiah Hunt, of the coastal town of Kapoho, said he hiked to see the lava before it crossed Apaa Street, a country road on the edge of Pahoa last week. He wanted a look because the molten rock was affecting life in the town and the larger surrounding community of about 10,000 people.
“Somehow it helped me to come to grips . and feel a sense of closure, to some degree,” he said. “It helps put an image to it in your mind’s eye.”
He doesn’t think now is a good time to gather to see the lava because it’s threatening homes.