Andrew Hara: 'You can just be there for them. It's frustrating not to be able to do more'

PUNA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - To get images up close of ongoing eruptions on the Big Island, some photographers have bent the rules — or broken them altogether.

But not Andrew Hara.

He's captured incredible video and photographs of lava fountains and flows by working with county and other officials to get his shots.

"So that this large mass of social media followers are getting information that's respectful," he said. "We're making sure that people don't trespass. If people need their homes checked on, we'll try and figure out a way that's legally respectful to the police department as well as the community."

He's been able to get closer to Madame Pele's wrath than most.

"To be able to see a 200-foot lava fountain ejecting all this pumice and ... it's floating in the area and creating all these small tornadoes — I've never seen lava that high," Hara said. "You know, you're looking up and it's hard to comprehend."

Hard to believe, too.

But easier thanks to Hara's images — documentation of a disaster whose end is nowhere in sight. A disaster that's hit very close to home.

Hara said he has at least 10 friends who have lost homes to lava. And there have been several occasions in which he's had to break the bad news to homeowners.

"You can just be there for them," he said. "That's all you can do. It's frustrating not to be able to do more."

This profile is part of our digital series, "Pele's Path: People of Puna."

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