Park rangers have cited dozens of people who have gathered at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to witness an ongoing eruption of Kilauea volcano.
The rangers said those cited ventured into dangerous areas to take photos and videos of the eruption that created a lake of lava in Halema‘uma‘u crater that was more than 500 feet deep Thursday.
“All it takes is a slight change in wind direction and these offenders could inhale a fatal dose of volcanic gas,” said HVNP Chief Ranger Jack Corrao. “One misstep or a crumbling cliff edge and they could plunge into the vast pit of molten rock or to the crater floor. We want to keep the park open so everyone can safely experience this beautiful new eruption, but when visitors enter closed areas, rangers must concentrate on these few individuals. This puts our staff in hazardous situations.”
The eruption is contained to the crater, in an area of the park that has been closed since 2007, and where there are dangerous levels of volcanic gas, rockfalls, explosions and volcanic glass particulates.
Fines for violating national park rules start at $150, said park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane. The fines increase after multiple violations and can lead to being expelled from the park.
This is the first time Kilauea has erupted since 2018. The two years of relative silence came after more than three decades of constant eruption from 1983-2018. Roughly 700 houses were destroyed during the volcano’s lower East Rift Zone eruption in 2018.