LANIPUNA GARDENS, Hawaii – Allen Bertram built his Lanipuna Gardens home nearly 25 years ago. When lava ravaged his neighborhood almost two weeks ago, he lost nearly everything.
“I look outside, I see a river of lava going down the street flowing 10 miles an hour. I opened the door and it came inside the house,” Bertram said.
With only the clothes on his back, Allen says he grabbed his dog and quickly ran uphill to safety.
“We slept outside and we waited until morning and then ran up to my neighbor’s mac nut orchard,” Bertram said.
Trapped by lava, the only way to his neighbor’s was to scale over fences.
“I had to throw my dog over the fence but then he bit me and ran away,” Bertram said.
His dog, missing. Bertram searched for shelter.
Over the next 12 days, he barricaded himself in neighbor’s garage, surviving off of canned foods stored in their pantry.
“I was surrounded by lava, just hoping for the best,” he said.
Hoping to capture the attention of the helicopters flying above, Bertram says he put out a distress signal he’d learned from a TV show.
“I did three garbage can lids bright red and marking paint and a red shirt as a flag. I was praying that I was going to get rescued,” Bertram said.
Just this past Saturday, his prayers were answered.
Firefighters spotted Bertram from the air, lifting him to safety.
“Thank God… best day of my life, very grateful to be alive,” he said.