What It’s Like Living Next to Kilauea, America’s Most Dangerous Volcano

Kilauea, the 4,000-foot volcano in Hawaii, began glowing Wednesday afternoon. Locals are still recovering from its last eruption in 2018.

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Kilauea, America’s most dangerous volcano is erupting again, spewing lava and toxic gasses into the air. 

Located on Hawaii’s Big Island, the 4,000-foot volcano began glowing and venting smoke Wednesday afternoon. Currently, the eruption poses no immediate threat to homes or populated areas, according to the Hawaiian Red Cross, and the lava is expected to stay confined to the volcano’s caldera. 


Kilauea has done damage before though. Locals are still recovering from a massive eruption in 2018, which destroyed roads and wiped out hundreds of homes. The lava flows cut off power to residents and caused serious infrastructural damage, some of which has never been fully repaired.

But for many Hawaiians, the area around Kilauea is simply home, and living in the path of destruction is a small price to pay. The site is one of immense beauty and deep spiritual connection, the home of Pele, the Hawaiian religion’s volcano deity, and lava is part of that culture and history.

“If you don’t understand, you can get afraid of it,” said Emily Naeole, a former city councilperson and fisherwoman in Puna. “That's the difference,” she added, “raising up here in Hawaii and knowing you can have a volcano pop up any day.”

In the longterm, ash and other volcanic emissions can also create super fertile soils and excellent crops. And when the lava starts flowing, communities come together. They shelter those who have lost their homes and crowdsource safety information about lava flows and air quality to distribute in realtime. 

“The soil, the climate, everything in Kapoho is just perfect for farming. We're very lucky, extremely lucky to be here still,” she added. “I think wherever you live you have to coexist with your environment.”

Before Kilauea started fuming again, VICE News met some of its closest neighbors to better understand the ups and downs of life around Hawaii’s most active volcano.