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The lava flow creeping toward the Hawaiian community of Pahoa has claimed its first house, Hawaii County civil defense officials said Monday.
Administrator Darryl Oliveira said a breakout "finger" from the lava flow traveled more than 15 yards in about an hour to make direct contact with the home on Cemetery Road, which then began to burn. Officials said one family member, who drove to Pahoa on Monday from another part of the island, was present as flames engulfed the home.
The 1,100-square-foot house, which sits less than a half-mile from its closest neighbors in an agricultural part of town, has been empty since August. Oliveira said the tenants moved out as residents in Pahoa began preparing for potential evacuations when lava from the Kilauea volcano's Pu'u O'o vent began encroaching on the town. More lava oozed to within two feet of what officials described as a detached garage or "barn" structure on the private property.
Active breakouts upslope have been cause for concern, even though the leading edge of the lava flow has been stalled for more than a week. The front edge remains about 480 feet from Pahoa Village Road.
Officials said Monday there's no indication the lava flow from Pu'o O'o will stop any time soon.
State and county officials have been preparing for the possible closing of Highway 130, which would be cut off if the lava continued on its current path. The highway is the main thoroughfare through town and a key access road for residents traveling to other parts of the Big Island.