Pele's tenants: Residents distraught as lava continues to claim homes, land

Rahmer found out just this weekend that the home he built was claimed by Madame Pele. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Rahmer found out just this weekend that the home he built was claimed by Madame Pele. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
All Kirk Rahmer has left of his dream home is a door handle. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
All Kirk Rahmer has left of his dream home is a door handle. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

KAPOHO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - USGS officials estimate that more than 5,000 acres have been covered by lava since eruptions began a little over a month ago, and under that flow is more than 150 homes.

All day Monday, evacuees flooded into Puuhonua o Puna, in search of food, comfort, and information.

"Mostly they're (officials) talking about tide pools and beach lots, but those are just houses," said Vacationland resident Kathy Emery. "We're the farmers down there, we've got five acres of farms."

"There's millions of dollars worth of revenue that we lost," Emery said.

Emery, like many other residents in evacuation zones across the Big Island, is hoping to get confirmation that her home and farm, is still standing.

"Those farm lots can't be rebuilt," Emery said. "We're the people that grow things, and that's how we support ourselves."

"We're independent people, we're not 9 to 5 (workers) and we don't have paid vacations," Emery said.

The Kapoho farmer says she is still trying to figure out whether or not she has the funds to charter a helicopter to assess the damage herself, but she said that prior to evacuating, she made sure to board up her windows and doors to keep thieves at bay.

"And then I thought, well it's hurricane season, so (my home) is hurricane proof, and it's looter proof, but it's not lava proof," Emery said. "And I wish I knew if it was there or not."

Big Island carpenter Kirk "Kavi" Rahmer has the opposite problem, he recently got news that the dream home he built 18 years ago off Noni Farms Road, is gone.

Over the weekend he was flying over the area in a Cessna when his deepest fear was confirmed.

All he has left of his home now is a door handle.

"The lava actually came through the house and stopped," Rahmer said. "So I guess the handle fell out — most of the house collapsed kind of in on itself."

"But the lava stopped right there and hasn't progressed," Rahmer said.

Rahmer says there are still a few acres on his lot untouched by lava — but the small lobe occurring upslope of the Kapoho cone cinder pit appears as though it could be heading in their direction.

"I left a lot of things behind because I didn't want to feel as if I was abandoning my home," Rahmer said. "So I'm real sad. I've always considered myself a tenant of Pele, so this may be my eviction notice."

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