LERZ4 (Lower East Rift Zone) is a group of three individuals located in the very heart of Puna, in Leilani Estates of the Big Island. We are located about 45 minutes outside of Hilo, Hawaii
Leilani Estates is the location of the 2018 flow which consisted of 24 fissures erupting out of the groups with spouts of lava shooting as high as 300 feet into the air. Numerous daily earthquakes created huge cracks and ground defamation in resident yards, as well as monster cracks in the roads. The ground first opened up on May 3rd. Lush, green land was very quickly turned into acres of black tephra as well as raging rivers of lava. The residents experienced at least $800 million dollars in damage. Volcanic gas (SO2) and daily earthquakes forced the evacuation of populated areas and destroyed houses, roads and utilities. By August 7, 13.7 square miles of land and over 700 home structures had been covered by lava flows. About 873 acres of new land was created near the ocean. By mid-August, the lava flow had significantly slowed. No lava activity has been recorded after September 4, 2018 in Leilani Estates.
While most of Leilani Estates experienced forced evacuation, three members of the LERZ4 made an intentional decision to remain in Leilani Estates during the active flow assisting with protecting properties, rescuing animals and reporting the daily changes made by the active lava flow. We now want to share those personal stories with you.
Groups are welcome. Families with children are encouraged to participate and experience touching the lava, be amazed by huge cracks across acres of property and hear the stories of those who experienced the dramatic emotions of the 2018 lava flow in Leilani Estates.
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What our clients say
Lava flow tour I took a tour of the wreckage from the earlier lava flow and could not have been more pleased. Our guide was incredible and knew a lot of the history and culture of the area as well as about the lava flow. The experience was so humbling seeing the destruction that overtook the houses. They even had real home owners tell us about what happened. I recommend this company to any one traveling to Hawaii and I plan on giving some of their other tour destinations a try.
Reviewed by Kenzie R
Spectacular tour!! Skyler and the team provided a first hand view of the destruction of the most recent lava flow from 2018. The two properties owners from Leilani Estates provided a first hand view of the efforts made to try and save their homes. The trip out to view the newly created beach, the farmers market, the painted church and the new ground for the Hawaiian culture centre completed a most unique excursion. I would highly recommend this trip over any other to see what the power of lava creates!!
Reviewed by Ala1960
Breathtaking I took this tour two weeks ago when my cruise was docked in Hilo. The guide picked us up right at the ship, was very professional and friendly, and taught us all sorts of Hawaiian history on the way to Leilani Estates. Once we arrived there, we were met by some of the homeowners who had lost their homes to the lava flow of 2018. They were incredibly welcoming, had tons of great information to share with us, along with pictures and personal stories. We were able to walk over the cooled lava on different properties and got to see how the fissures tore some of the lots apart. This tour truly opened our eyes to how destructive the lava flow actually was. I recommend this tour to anyone considering it, you won't regret it.
Reviewed by thebrownclint
Amazing!!!!! Me and my wife visited Big Island on October 2019. I'm a geologist and I wanted to go to fissure 8 but was very difficult to find tours there, after many researches we found this tour. Our guide Carey Mills picked us up on time and according to our needs, so we started this very beautiful experience. The tour was simply amazing we saw exactly what we wondered, and more than we expected! We spoke directly with people of Leilani that told us their experiences of those days. We walked on one of several fissure opened on May 2018. We dicovered a lot of interesting things and saw incredible landscapes. Carey told us that a part of money we paid will be transferred to owners that lost everything so it is also socially useful. So if you'll visit Big Island DO NOT miss the opportunity to help and learn! Grazie!!!!
Reviewed by marcovic82
Heath Dalton was born and raised in the Midwest. His life took a huge turn when he stepped off the plane over 18 years ago, informed his then fiance they would be moving here and now feels he is truly home.
Heath’s children, a gorgeous daughter and a very precious son, were both born in Hawaii. His beautiful wife of eighteen years serves the people of the Big Island as a medical practitioner at Hilo Hospital. Heath also is the proud parent of two fur babies, one of whom they adopted and one of who adopted them.
Heath loves, loves, loves the outdoors and tries to enjoy life to its fullest. One is not around Heath very long before experiencing the impact of his never ending jokes. While he is strong in stature, Heath possesses a gentle heart full of compassion. During and, even a year after, the lava event that shattered many families, Heath is found daily helping someone in need.
Prior to the first fissure popping up out of the ground, Heath knew something catastrophic was about to occur. Heath took the day off, purchased fifty 27 gallon totes and began packing them with valuables. The earthquakes were occurring at over 200 per day. Heath knew something was happening but was totally not prepared for the events which were to come. Heath worked through the night on Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, May 4, life changed for thousands of people in Leilani Estates.
Heath convinced his wife to leave the home with their two precious babies. Heath stayed the night in the family home, hearing the explosions, smelling the sulfur and SO2 in the air, the fireworks in the sky as the gases hit the green terrain and the continue wailing of police / civil defense sirens. To this moment, Heath can hear every sound, smell every smell and recall each moment by moment event. Those intense, frightening moments have become memories of awe and amazement.
After the final round up of family, fur babies and chickens, Heath left Leilani Estates to take all to a safe place. Heath spoke with officials who, at this point, had formed a check point at the entrance of the Estates. An agreement was made that he would be allowed to return after dropping his precious cargo at a safe place. Upon returning in less than an hour, Heath was refused entry in Leilani Estates. On May 5th, Heath’s family home was engulfed by Fissure 9. The ground opened up in his back yard and the lava quickly engulfed all in its path. With the exception of the clothes they wore, Heath lost everything to the lava, including his business, Foto Magic Hawaii. Backups to computers, backup files with thousands of pictures and family memorabilia of their precious babies were all covered in lava. Heath was left with 25 business cards, business magnets for the side of truck, and two vehicles. Heath heartedly speaks of now having an ocean view from his property, something he did not have pre-eruption.
The landscape has been permanently changed. Some people see it as destruction. Heath has chosen to see it as change which has created something we can now look at with amazement. Heath has found motivation in helping others through this catastrophic event. Heath is still amazed with how the community came together, how political views held no bonds and how race or culture was never an issue during the rescue events.
As the world watched this event unfold on TV and computer screens, Heath lived through it, participated in numerous rescues, linked arms with other men who were willing to cross the hot lava in search of rescues, chose to remain in Leilani Estates when advised to leave and spent numerous sleepless nights wondering how he could be useful once again to a community that was being destroyed in front of him. Heath has found friendships that will stand the test of time which includes both those who are still in Leilani Estates and those whom have chosen to move off island.
Heath looks forward to sharing his experiences, his stories and the view of what was once his home. Heath is an excitement seeker who is anxious to meet people from all around the world. Heath has found that every time he tells his story (or stories), he experiences further healing in emotions, hope and heart that was severely broken. Heath looks forward to meeting new friends, sharing his experiences and answering as many questions as others may have.
If you are from the midwest or northeast USA you probably share a dream of visiting Hawaii. Many of those dreamers dream big of moving to Hawaii. A few of those actually make the journey to residency. I am one of the blessed ones in that I live in Leilani Estates, Pahoa, Puna District, Big Island.
Born Ohio 1954, grew up with the Island dream. First trip over in 1975 I knew where I belonged and 11 additional trips over 30 years confirmed my destiny. I bought a lot in 2009 way up the hill where Lava Tree molds from the 1840 flow still exist. I was warned, I listened but did not hear but now I understand as Fissure Ten and cracks 40” wide and 30’ deep reside and dominate my landscape.
It’s not easy to move to a new state and harder yet to maneuver through the building department, codes, rules, regulations and customs. I overcame the housing issue by renting for several years while I beautified my lot. I bought a house (a fixer upper) on the other side of Leilani in 2016 with plans to sell in two years and use proceeds to build my dream home on my dream lot. My house stands virtually untouched and located one street up from the mandatory evacuation zone, it is looking good.
Of course the world watched as the Kilauea Volcano erupted May 2018, sending Lava through the lower east rift zone (LERZ) then out fissures in LE lasting 3 full months. The effect of such an event affects everyone differently. For me not so much, my lot is reconditioned and not buildable for many lifetimes. My house lost most of its value. My favorite swimming / snorkeling spots are gone. Some friends moved away, not to return. For many the loss was great, homes 20 to 80 feet under Lava, all possessions (businesses, vehicles, paperwork, heirlooms and irreplaceable photos) all gone, so sad.
So what does one do when confronted with such events. Easy, you team up with what will become your best of friends (friendship forged in red hot Lava). You get up every day, take trucks and trailers, head into the danger zone and work beyond exhaustion into the night. You put out a few fires, save a house or two, rescue a few dogs and cats then place feeding stations for the skittish ones. Every day is long and hard, weeks fly by and months are a flash.
A year out looking back we did what we could with what we knew, often not enough, often exceeding expectations. Somewhere along the way you survey the landscape, take measure of what happened, is happening and may happen.
Tourism flooded our community, first the ones with a inside connection who trespass with impunity. As time moved along more and more tourist, peeing in the streets, trampling fences and properties, throwing trash, invading residences for pictures, on top of Fissure eight. Here a tourist there a tourist, every where a tourist, hundreds when cruise ship dock in Hilo. The only thing worse than a bad tourist was and is the bad tour operators who shamelessly led the way into our neighborhood, encouraged their customers to trespass, take pictures and mementoes. These operators basically led the rape of a community of much dignity without so much as a dime for the affected. Now credit to the larger tour companies who respected the plight of our community, the pain of our peoples and withheld from the money grab, we do thank you for your professionalism.
What to do, what to do? Take stock of what is happening. What constructive event can possibly be created? A few concerned Leilani property owners got together and created a LLC called LERZ 4. Our purpose is to reign in the tourism in our community, turn our fissure and flow assets into a means to help. We have properties throughout Leilani Estates with the best of views of Fissure 8 and surrounding area. We offer a means for tour vans (minimize traffic and travel) to enter Leilani in a respectful way, go to private properties mostly out of road view, equipped with seating and bathrooms. We will return 5% of proceeds to a LCA fund and 30% to a Lava affected fund.
I am proud that my Malama lot is one of the chosen properties for viewing. This provides me the opportunity to further support my community, monetarily and emotionally.
We currently have 5 locations under contract, great views, great physical presence of which you may participate in a safe and mannerly way. Please come talk to us, let us share the experience with you from first hands on residents.
Pamela Ah-Nee was born in Washington DC and spent most of her “growing up days” in the hills of West Virginia. After graduating from college at the early age of 18, Pamela found herself in Hilo, Hawaii with an internship at Henry Opukahaia School, then located at Haili Church.
Pamela moved on to the Island of Oahu in the 80’s where she spent 20 years as the administrator and high school instructor for a small private school in Kailua, Hawaii. Following the death of her grandmother in 2012, Pamela earned a Certification in Aged Related Dementia and joined the Alzheimer’s Association as Program Director and, later, Program Specialist.
Pamela returned to the Island of Hawaii in 2018 and experienced first-hand the creation of new land as well as dramatic life changes brought on by the opening of twenty-four lava fissures in Leilani Estates. Pamela was directly touched by the lava which flowed onto properties in the lower east rift zones of Leilani Estates and Puna.
Following what appeared to be total destruction, Pamela has found a new perspective to life. As opposed to obliteration and eradication, Pamela now finds vitality, passion, exuberance and healing as she shares her new world with others.
With a Master’s degree in Education and a second Master’s of Arts in Family Counseling, Pamela’s heartbeat consists of teaching others the art of compassion and the ability to rebuild after a catastrophic event or crisis. Pamela pulls her resources from her own internal strength as well as the spiritual foundation given to her by her grandparents. Pamela has learned how to be “refreshed by renewing her mind” (Romans 12:1) and how to love others unconditionally. Pamela attempts to portray these principals to those whom she meets daily.