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Chico Family Evacuates, Loses Business to Mt. Kilauea

A Chico couple moved to Hawaii's Big Island to start a new life. But Mt. Kilauea had other plans. Still, they are counting their blessings.

Posted: Jun. 12, 2018 5:47 PM
Updated: Jun. 13, 2018 4:32 PM

"We were going to start our new life, as a couple...sorry." Tish Crespo apologizes as she wipes away a tear.  She says she and her husband never expected that they would have a gofundme account in their name.   

"We worked very hard, we persevered," she explains, as she describes the life she and her husband Chris had built since they moved from Chico to Hawaii's Big Island.

Crespo graduated from Pleasant Valley High School and went on to Chico State for her teaching credentials.  She met Chris, and they decided to move to Hawaii, where they lived off-the-grid.  A few years later, they found a small, rundown former motel on Realtor.com, and decided to buy it and fix it up.  Tish worked as a teacher at a local school to help pay the bills, and their family grew bigger when she gave birth to their daughter Sofia.

They say they knew the dangers of living near Mt. Kilauea, the most active of the five volcanoes that form the island chain.  But Tish says the lava flowed in a different direction of their home and nearby inn, so they thought they were safe.  The family loved living the island lifestyle.  Chris says, "We would walk to the beach every night, hear the whales singing.  It was incredible."

Chris and Tish restored the Kapoho Village Inn, and for several years, the small business barely broke even.  But last year, they say they were finally in the black.  It was a good sign.

But in early May, everything changed.  Pele, the Goddess of Fire became angry, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.  Earthquakes rumbled the ground beneath them, and suddenly, lava erupted from the crater. 

The couple says it was terrifying.  Says Tish, "Roads were cracking, steam was popping up everywhere."

"It sounded like jet engines, explosions were close to us," Chris adds.

The family held out as long as they could, even evacauting for three days, then returning.  But finally, on May 29, civil defense workers went door-to-door in their neighborhood, ordering everyone out.

They flew back to Chico, leaving their two dogs behind.  Tish says luckily, they have a friend who was able to build a pen for the dogs in Hawaii until the family can afford to fly them to the North State.

Even under the constant threat of dangerous lava, Tish says she'd held out hope that the the Kapoho Inn would be left untouched.  That is, until she was scrolling through stories online.  What she saw made her burst into tears.   Says Tish, "I went onto the Daily Mail and I was reading an article about Hawaii, and I saw a picture of our inn.  And it had been severely damaged by fire.  It was just, I can't even explain it, it was surreal.  It was numbing."

Now they're back in Chico, starting over from scratch.  Tish plans to apply for a teaching job in Redding.  Beyond that, it will be a daily struggle to rebuild their lives.  They cherish the memories and the stories of happier days that guests post to the Kapoho Inn website.  They say hearing of the fun times and special memories makes them feel better.

If you would like to help this family get back on their feet, click here.

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