Lava took this military veteran’s home. Rather than retreat, he simply bought the one next door

Kris Burmeister | Pele's Path: The Journey Home

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The trees from the Leilani Estates land near Kris Burmeister’s home were stripped from existence last year, devoured by fronts of melted rock with temperatures that reached well above 1,000 degrees.

Strong gusts now fill the fruitless space where a healthy jungle, and dozens of his neighbors’ homes, once were.

On the edge of this desolate field, as the anniversary of the 2018 eruption approaches, Burmeister walks on the now-cooled lava rock, more than a story above where his home used to sit.

[Click here to see the full documentary, Pele’s Path: The Journey Home]

It was a home he loved and cherished.

“I ended up finding this neighborhood and I fell in love with it,” Burmeister said. “I thought, ‘Wow this is a good place to be.’”

His now-covered one-acre lot holds buried secrets. Though he can’t be exactly where his house used to be, he does have a way to recognize where something else was.

“This used to be my kids’ tree house,” he says. “I didn't expect this to be here. It's all we had left that we can recognize from the property.”

Before the eruption, the playhouse sat in a towering tree, one that reached stories into the air and was well above the field of hardened rock that ended up surrounding it.

When that happened, the tree did its best to stand strong. When the lava cooled, it cooled around the tree’s trunk, creating a curious geological formation that Kris discovered when he finally returned.

The tree is now gone, but the rocky cast remains – it's now, more or less, a tree-shaped hole in the lava field.

The deep, dangerous landmines are scattered across this post-apocalyptic plain.

“It's about 10 feet deep and it spreads out in all directions,” said Burmeister. “Where all the roots used to be, and it's big enough for you to put about six people in it if you had to.”

Kris Burmeister's Lava Tree | Pele's Path: The Journey Home

Though his property was wiped out, this father and U.S. military veteran is unyielding. Rather than flee, Burmeister is actually doubling-down on the investment he made in this community.

The home next to where his once stood remains untouched -- its owners chose not to come back. Burmeister decided to buy it.

Turns out, this hardened dad has a softer side.

“I got a pretty good deal on it,” said Burmeister. “I just wanted to be close to something that I used to have. I guess it’s just a little more sentimental.”

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