2 Big Isle residents shrug off lava threat
Flows cause little alarm for residents
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HILO » Lava broke out of a holding pattern on Kilauea's East Rift and headed downslope yesterday toward the only two inhabited houses anywhere around, three miles to the southeast in Royal Gardens.
The only two people living in the remnants of the subdivision overrun by lava many times before, two bachelors, shrugged it off.
"I'll get worried when I feel the heat," said bed-and-breakfast owner Jack Thompson.
Dean Schneider, who lives a half-mile away in the sprawling, mostly abandoned subdivision, declined an offer of help from a Hawaii County Fire Department helicopter.
Geologist Tim Orr said the lava could follow a natural contour and miss both houses.
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HILO » When a long, relatively fast lava flow headed toward Royal Gardens subdivision yesterday, a radio announcement by Hawaii County Civil Defense called it a "threat."
Jack Thompson, one of just two people living in the deserted subdivision, heard the news with outright boredom.
"I heard something on the radio," he said. "I can see the glow at night. It has been a block up from me dozens of times. I'll get worried when I feel the heat."
Thompson, 57, runs a bed-and-breakfast called the Lava House, but most visitors, who come by helicopter, do not stay for the bed or the breakfast, he said.
They sit on his lanai and eat lunch they bring with them from their hotel. Then they fly away.
"I think most of them are probably afraid to spend the night. I don't know why. You just walk away from anything that comes down," he said.
In fact, despite a sudden lava breakout Wednesday, the danger from the new flow is limited.
For weeks the lava has been seeping out from under "shields" of fresh rock it created on the nearly uninhabited south side of Kilauea's East Rift.
Geologist Tim Orr at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said one of those shields apparently burst open and released a gush of lava.
Overnight the flow moved about 1.3 miles downslope, and by noon it was about a half-mile from the top of Royal Gardens. But the closest home, where Dean Schneider lives, is almost another mile downhill.
A lobe of old lava might divert the new flow away from Schneider's house, Orr said.
Thompson's house is farther away, in a corner of the subdivision, probably protected by another lobe of old lava.
Thompson and Schneider barely know each other.
"We lead separate lives. We don't socialize that much," said Thompson, who has a second house closer to Hilo but mostly stays at the Lava House.
The Royal Gardens house has no noisy coqui frogs around it, no roosters crowing at 4 in the morning, no screaming kids, he said.
Thompson carries everything across old lava flows to Royal Gardens on his motorcycle, so he does not carry much, not even beer. He does not have any pets.
"I'm not going to haul dog food," he said.
He does have satellite television, which he powers with a generator that burns a half-gallon of gas every six hours, he said.
On occasion the Lava House becomes festive. Thompson has had six helicopters parked there at a time. In a decade or more or running the bed-and-breakfast, he has hosted three weddings.
When they are over, guests fly away, and Thompson goes back to reading and watching the glow of lava uphill at night.