Take pictures at your own risk: Lava loiterers face jail time, hefty fine

Take pictures at your own risk: Lava loiterers face jail time, hefty fine

PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Residents and visitors just can't seem to get enough close-up shots of Madame Pele in action.

Despite police barricades, hazardous gas emissions, and generally unsafe conditions, people continue to illegally enter spaces cordoned off by Big Island authorities to gawk or snap a picture of lava flows on the Big Island.

In the past 10 days, about a dozen people have been cited for loitering in lava zones, some of whom are eligible to be disciplined under new guidelines established earlier this month.

Of those cited, several were in Lava Tree State Park, Paakikii, and in the Mackenzie State Recreation Area.

Officials from the Department of Land and Natural Resources say they have arrested about 40 people for loitering in lava zones since eruptions began.

The new rules increase the penalty for people caught in closed east rift zone areas. Those caught and cited by DLNR officials can be fined up to $5,000 and given up to a year of jail time. Before the proclamation, DLNR officials say they issued more than three dozen citations.

"I find there is a need to strengthen the enforcement tools available to county and state emergency management officials in controlling public access to dangerous areas and associated evacuation efforts as a result of the failure of the public to comply with instructions and orders issued by officials," said Gov. David Ige, in a statement.

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