The cautions of the experts proved credible. More than an hour after the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park rangers reported on the imminent destruction of a family’s home, a wall of lava headed toward them.
In front of them, a smoldering, fresh patch of red lava burned so deeply into the ground it turned the family’s front porch into the slippery shore of a lava lake.
Across the street, even as they cheered the soon-to-be tour guide and campaigned for their vehicle in a back lane, the family’s neighbor’s home continued to burn.
“It’s the family prayer of love and protect,” said Bill Magowan, a scientist at the park.
Police initially told the family there were no additional cars in the driveway, but they soon discovered the family has parked in the driveway for years, and for days before that.
“It’s not like you see one car and you know, everything’s fine,” said Lisa Magowan, who with her husband, Jerry, had moved into their home in 1983. “You just don’t have that feeling.”
Their house was about 1,200 feet from the most active lava zone in the volcano zone. They had decided that the spot near the lava lake’s pool might be the one they put on the market a few years ago, when the $2.6 million home was listed for $3.6 million.
It was only a matter of time, though, before the lead anchors had to come out and the cautions of warning signs were put to work.
On the afternoon of Nov. 5, the family walked on the street and through the lava lake’s pool. They came back after visiting Lisa’s mother at a nearby retirement home. Their son brought a pair of sunglasses to Lisa, wearing them around the lake.
Little did they know their eyes would take a terrifying turn. As the family was leaving to go to a friends’ house, lava, hot and visible, quickly closed in.
The family grabbed what they could, got in the car and headed away from the lake. “We couldn’t see anything at all,” Lisa said. They were cruising past a stream that was threatening to tear its path through the road.
She felt as if she was burning.
Then, at the end of the block, out of the corners of her eye, she spotted something sparkling in the road: the edge of a 50-foot wide crater created when the crater’s main lava lake drained in the spring. They had found the family’s miraculous home.
The family struggled for a moment to realize the three homes would have to be searched, piece by piece. “You hope nothing bad happens and the house turns up,” Lisa said.
“We always felt safe here,” her husband said.
The family razed the house a few days later. They all packed up, but they had kept on the property the garden they planted when their home was built. It took only two hours to start seeing the trees die. A yard belonging to a family friend became the last house standing before its house burned down in the same week, the Magowans’ house the next.
In just four days, almost all of their worldly possessions were destroyed, a loss of more than $2 million.
They filled a new truck with the contents of their home: a daughter’s clothes, furniture, pictures. They will sell everything except the furniture.