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Leilani Estates resident reflects on watching lava overrun his property in 2018

If you were standing in Leilani Estates on the Big Island five years ago, you would probably be transfixed by the sight of lava erupting out of your property or flowing through your neighbor's yard.

Today, amid the grid of roads and property lines and homes and trees lies an empty riverbed or channel, approximately half a mile wide. It winds through the cooled lava from the 2018 Kīlauea Lower East Zone eruption until it meets the sea at Kapoho Bay.

That's what remains of the river of lava that started at what was then called Fissure 8, the largest fissure to rise from the eruption. It was responsible for the majority of the volcanic activity over the last half of the event. Today, it’s known as Ahu‘ailā‘au.

The Conversation met up with Kris Burmeister at his property on the north side of the fissure, near his fence that separates the lush green flora of the lots in Leilani Estates from the edge of the barren black lava fields.

He's lived there for 20 years and raised his sons there. His home was overrun by lava. He has a new home now. In the five years since the eruption, he also bought some of the surrounding land from his neighbors.

This interview aired on The Conversation on May 18, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Russell Subiono is the executive producer of The Conversation. Born in Honolulu and raised on Hawaiʻi Island, he’s spent the last decade working in local film, television and radio. Contact him at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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