(HONOLULU) — Allen Bertram heard the calls to evacuate, but decided to stay put unless lava came near his Hawaiian home.
A week ago his home was surrounded by a hellish pool of fire.
“I saw lava coming towards my bedroom and I looked out on the road and it was a river,” Bertram told ABC News’ Marci Gonzalez. “It was in my house.
“I didn’t have time to grab anything.”
The man had only his sandals, shorts and a T-shirt on his back and ran with his dog through a patch of sugar cane to seek cover at a neighbor’s farm uphill.
But in throwing his dog over a fence to dodge the magma burning anything in its path, the dog bit Bertram and ran off.
The drum set and chainsaw and weed eater are likely gone, but they’re replaceable.
Bertram has no clue where his dog went.
“I try not to think about him,” he said, choking up. “He’s more important than the house. He can’t be replaced.”
Bertram is filled with guilt over his fateful decision not to evacuate.
“Everything I love is gone,” he said.
Kileaua volcano erupted May 3 and since then earthquakes have rocked the region and fissures have cracked open under the earth to produce large lava flows into populated areas, destroying more than 80 structures.
Recently, a dangerous volcanic smog, or “vog,” has hovered over the skies causing widespread evacuations.
For a week Bertram said he managed to survive by barricading in his neighbor’s garage “surrounded by lava.”
“I thought I was dead,” he said. “I was just hoping for the best.”
He said that he was able to call attention to his stranded state by spray-painting the grass as a distress signal so the helicopter pilots flying overhead knew he was alive and could save him.
“They finally stopped and I ran out there,” he said.
In the moment of triumph, Bertram said he told his rescuers, “You’re a sight for sore eyes.”
There was no time to be sentimental and Bertram said he was told, “Let’s go.”
Bertram wishes he fled when he had the chance.
“I didn’t gain nothing in staying,” he said. “I could have clean clothes, medication — this opened my eyes big time.
“I’m lucky to be alive.”
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