kilaeua methane blue flame hawaii
© CBS News
At Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, eerie blue flames indicate the presence of methane gas.
Blue flames burning in the lava from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano are raising new fears of explosions. Emergency officials say if fissures open west of Pahoa, lava could block the one remaining open highway. If that happens, about 1,000 people would have to be helicoptered to safety, reports CBS News' Mark Strassmann.

Residents are also eyeing another disturbing development. After three weeks of gawking at images of bright red lava bursting skyward, the Big Island's focus has shifted to something blue and worrisome: blue flames that indicate the presence of methane gas. Methane gas is a result of the lava burning plants and trees. Scientists say it can trigger explosions if ignited while trapped underground.

"It's the first time, maybe the second time I've seen the blue flames thing. It's very dramatic, very eerie," geophysicist Jim Kauahikaua said.

hawaii road fissures
© CBS
For now, Kilauea seems to have spared a threatened geothermal power plant. But in communities like Leilani Estates, fountains of nearby lava threaten more homes and there are also spots where officials worry about widening cracks.

"The first thing that came to my mind was, are we ever going to be able to go home," said homeowner Shantel Pacarro. Pacarro discovered a massive crack is now running through her backyard and under her house when a neighbor showed her a video of her property.

hawaii home fissure

Shantel Pacarro's home
"For me, I explained to my children, home is when we are all together. That's our home. So we can always rebuild. As long as we have each other that's the most important thing," Pacarro said.

There are four fissures bursting with lava in evacuated Leilani Estates. It's like a scene from the dawn of time, when the world was being born, and then remade over and over.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Pacarro and her family.


Comment: More images from Phys.org:

hawaii blue flames
Satellite Image Hawaii
© 2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company via AP
This May 23, 2018, Satellite photo provided by DigitalGlobe shows lava coming out of fissures caused by Kilauea volcano, running towards the Puna coast, lower right, along Malama Ki Forest Reserve recreation area in Pahoa, Hawaii. Puna Geothermal Venture, a geothermal energy plant is seen at upper middle. The Leilani Estates neighborhood, where the volcano has been gushing lava on the big island of Hawaii for the past three weeks, is seen at center left part.
Satellite Image Hawaii
© U.S. Geological Survey via AP
This Wednesday, May 23, 2018, photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, the active fissure complex in Kilauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone near Pahoa, Hawaii. The volcano produces methane when hot lava buries and burns plants and trees. Scientists say the methane can seep through cracks several feet away from the lava.
hawaii volcano kilaeua
© U.S. Geological Survey via AP
This Wednesday, May 23, 2018 photo shows a helicopter overflight of Kīlauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone near Pahoa, Hawaii. The volcano produces methane when hot lava buries and burns plants and trees. Scientists say the methane can seep through cracks several feet away from the lava.
Satellite Image
© 2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company via AP
This combination of satellite images provided by DigitalGlobe shows a southeast area of the Leilani Estates neighborhood, near Pahoa, Hawaii, May 24, 2017, top, and May 23, 2018, bottom, after recent Kilauea volcanic activities.
The latest activity at Kilauea is unprecedented and reflects a greater trend occurring all over the world: