After nearly three decades, the Kilauea volcano finally claimed the last home in the ravaged Royal Gardens subdivision on Hawaii’s big island.
Homeowner Jack Thompson hoped this latest threat would miss his home, like so many had in the past. He was evacuated by helicopter Friday night as the lava inched closer and closer to his house. “It [the lava] was pretty much coming in the back as we were going out the front,” Thompson told the Hawaii Tribune Herald.
Thompson fully understood the damage Kilauea could do. For as long as he had lived in Royal Gardens, the volcano was a threat. First erupting on January 3, 1983, lava slowly covered the entire community. Thompson was the last man standing; his last neighbor left in 2008.
Being the last to leave had its obstacles; Thompson walked three to four miles over rough lava rock to retrieve supplies and dealt with the surrounding inhospitable area being occupied by squatters, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. But it seems he didn’t mind the sacrifice for his dream home. “It was paradise,” Thompson told the newspaper by phone Saturday.
Leigh Hilbert, a professional photographer and friend of Thompson’s, was there until the bitter end, chronicling the advancing lava on his blog, Hawaiian Lava Daily. Even as the molten rock came closer, Hilbert struggled to convince Thompson to go. The two men had just 90 minutes to pack. Returning to the site the next day, there was no trace of his former home except for the roofing.
For now Thompson is living in his other home in nearby Ainaloa, but is unsure of his next step.