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Can I Get Arrested for My Lava Selfie?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on


Allow us to elaborate. The recent eruptions of the Kilauea volcano on Hawai'i have shown us the beauty and devastation of nature. As gorgeous as lava eruptions and flows can be, however, they tend to be a tad bit dangerous as well. And despite repeated warnings from police, folks still wanted to get their selfies with the Aloha State's latest attraction.

So yes, you can definitely get arrested for trying to get a lava selfie.

Zero Selfie Tolerance

According to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, they have arrested about 40 people for loitering in lava zones since eruptions began, almost a dozen in just one week. Under new "zero-tolerance" regulations established earlier this month, people caught in closed east rift zone areas can face increased penalties: Fines of up to $5,000 and a year of jail. DLNR officials say they issued more than three dozen citations even before the new rules went into effect.

"I find there is a need to strengthen the enforcement tools available to county and state emergency management officials in controlling public access to dangerous areas and in associated evacuation efforts," Governor David Ige said in a statement, "as a result of the failure of the public to comply with instructions and orders issued by officials."

"These People Need to Think"

Aside from the speed of the car-consuming lava and house-igniting heat, volcanic vents can emit sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and other hazardous gases. "These people need to think," said Jason Redulla, Deputy Enforcement Chief of the DLNR's Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement. "They are not only putting themselves into potentially life-threatening situations, but we can't completely lock gates or erect impassable barricades in areas where people have only one way out."

Officials allegedly found two brothers standing on top of "lava that was hardening, but still had active flows" after the pair drove their rental Jeep up a closed, lava-crossed road. "When officers have to spend so much time getting people out of areas that are clearly closed, it means they're being taken away from more critical duties." Redulla added. "Some people are not heeding warnings to stay away. They're putting their own lives at risk, the lives of law enforcement and first responders, and the lives of local residents who may need to evacuate quickly."

Don't try to take a lava selfie, or you might just feel the heat.

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