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Arizona National Guard assisting in Hawaii volcano emergency

Posted at 10:18 PM, May 08, 2018

Lava flowing from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii has been seen carving its way through homes, trees, even an unfortunately parked mustang with no end in sight. 

Thirty-five homes have been destroyed since the volcano erupted last week. 

"Within 24 hours of being notified they deployed," said Lt. Colonel Michael Spencer. 

Lt. Colonel Spencer with the Arizona National Guard says the scale of the event has led them to deploy their Civil Support Team. 

"Lava produces a chemical called sulfur dioxide which is very toxic," Lt. Colonel Spencer said. 

Over the last 30 hours, that team has been on the ground using specialized equipment to monitor the deadly gases emitted from the lava flow. 

Many times that gas will form an unpredictable toxic cloud, it's their job to track it and predict its movement. 

"So identifying what the levels are, if they're elevated levels in what areas so they can identify what areas need to be evacuated immediately," Lt. Colonel Spencer said.  

"The lava and the eruptions are sort of an obvious danger, and the gas is invisible and often times odorless," said Dr. Kayla Iacovino. 

Dr. Iacovino is a volcano researcher at Arizona State University. 

She says the lava produces numerous gases as it tumbles through the landscape.

"It can burn your eyes and your nose, and get into your lungs and cause damage to your airways," Dr. Iacovino said. 

Two new cracks spewing lava and gas opened up Monday on the Big Island. The lava flow has now covered the equivalent of more than 75 seventy-five football fields. 

And while the guardsmen protect those on the ground, Dr. Iacovino is using mountains of data to learn all she can here in the Valley to protect residents in the future. 

"We can use that information to try and predict eruptions and also to try and protect people when the eruptions occur, where's the lava gonna go, what are the gases gonna do," Dr. Iacovino said.