PAHOA, Hawaii (AP) — Rain fell Wednesday on a red-hot river of lava as it threatened to consume its first home on its slow advance into a rural Hawaii town.
A breakout of the lava flow was about 100 feet from a Pahoa residence — about the length of a basketball court, said Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira. The couple that lives in the home has left.
Scientists from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory who are walking alongside the lava reported its leading edge was 240 yards from Pahoa Village Road, which goes through a commercial hub of the Big Island's sprawling and isolated Puna district.
"This is just a little quiet village in a very rural community. We farm, we fish, we hunt," said Jamila Dandini. "We're going to be an island on an island."
The leading edge remained in a large agricultural parcel that included another house, which was about 100 yards from the lava, Oliveira said.
Dozens of homes, business and other structures are in the area of the lava flow. That number could increase as the flow front widens.
"The people who are meant to stay will stay. The people that have to leave, sadly, will leave," Dandini said.
So far, lava has burned a garden shed, tires and some metal materials.
On Wednesday, it burned mostly vegetation, while the rain helped tamp down smoke from the crackling stream.
Officials are monitoring hazards from the smoke. Chemists from the observatory detected only low levels of sulfur dioxide, Oliveira said.
The lava flow emerged from a vent in June and until recently had been slowly weaving through uninhabited forest and pastureland.
The flow is expected to slither past properties across the street from Jeff and Denise Lagrimas' home as it works its way toward the ocean, about 6 miles away. The Lagrimases decided not to stay and see if the lava burns their home. They packed up to leave for a town 14 miles away.
"I don't want to stick around and just wait for it to come and take it," Denise Lagrimas said while taking a break from loading kitchen cups and bowls in cardboard boxes. "You just never know."
She said they decided to move to Kurtistown because it's a safe distance away.
"Never in my wildest dreams as a kid growing up did I think I would be running from lava," Denise Lagrimas said.
Erbin Gamurot, 48, a handyman, said Pele, the volcano goddess, just wants to visit her sister, Namakaokahai, the sea goddess.
"She gotta go see her sister. She gotta go say hi. You know how family are. It's all good," Gamuret said.
Associated Press writer Alina Hartounian in Phoenix contributed to this report.