Lava has been slowly snaking its way towards rural Hawaii communities for months, but it took an oozing stream of molten rock just 45 minutes to burn down an empty house.
Firefighters standing by to tackle any spreading wildfires let the flames consume the 1,100-square-foot (100-square metre) structure yesterday afternoon.
A relative of the homeowner watched and recorded video of the destruction with an iPhone.
It was the first house incinerated by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on the Big Island that scientists have been warning the public about since August. It is unlikely to be the last.
The home’s nearest neighbour is about half a mile away, Hawaii County civil defence director Darryl Oliveira said.
A garage and barn near the destroyed home could also burn down soon, he said.
The lava emerged from a vent in June and entered Pahoa, the largest town in Big Island’s isolated and mostly agricultural Puna district, on October 26.
Since then, it has smothered part of a cemetery and burned down a garden shed. It also burned tyres, some metal materials and vegetation in its path.
The leading edge of the lava flow had bypassed the home, but it was a lobe of lava that broke out upslope and widened that reached the house.
Where the lava will reach next, and when, is hard to predict.
The county estimates the value of the destroyed home at about $200,000, Mr Oliveira said. The people renting it left in August, he said.
Officials said they will make arrangements for homeowners to watch any homes burn as a means of closure and to document the destruction for insurance purposes.
The front of the flow stalled on October 30 and remains about 480 feet (150 metres) from Pahoa Village Road, a main street.