People are putting their lives at risk by taking hot lava selfies near Kilauea volcano, police warn

Nearly two weeks after the Kilauea volcano’s decades-long eruption sent lava shooting up from the ground, Hawaii police are warning residents and tourists from taking selfies in dangerous areas.

As many photos from the lava sites have become popularized on social media, authorities are emphasizing the risks of visiting the rivers of molten lava, much less snapping selfies.

“The fissures are deadly, very deadly. We’re currently in a condition red because of the increased ash in the area,” Alan Richmond, spokesman for the Hawaii Police Department, tells PEOPLE of the latest status surrounding the Kilauea volcano.

“We’ve had no injuries which is the good news. The danger is that there will be rocks and debris falling further down into the crater and when the lava hits the water table, there’s an explosion,” Richmond says. “Everybody is on standby. It’s a dicey situation and no one knows how long it will last and how it will end, just dealing with Mother Nature.”

On the increasing amount of visitors seeking lava selfies, Richmond says there have been precautions to notify people of the threatening areas.

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“We’ve had roadblocks set up in the area unless they have been issued a placard which shows that they are residents. They have been evacuated due to a large part of being dangerous and don’t know the predictability of further fissures opening up,” he explains.

» Red alert declared on Hawaii’s Big Island; major Kilauea eruption ‘imminent’

“We’re trying to protect the people and their property. They don’t know if they’re going to come back to a home or not. So far we’ve lost 36 homes,” Richmond says.

Last year I went to visit my good friend in Oregon to photograph the total eclipse. Shortly after his entire town was under siege by the wildfires caused by the Chetco Effect. Waking up to sunrise looking like a war zone with clouds of smoke blocking out the sun making it look like a blood red sunset at noon! Evacuations were underway and my heart went out to this beautiful little town of Brookings... they ended up saving the town and I fell in love with this place. The local brewery was a hit with their variety of flavors and of course the chetco effect. It almost became a cuss word the same way Lava has here. I find it very ironic to be having these thoughts while wearing their shirt under very similar conditions and mindset. I want to document as much as possible because I know as much as I hate seeing photos of myself one day I’m going to look back at all of this like a historic time capsule, sealed in a bubble that I am trapped in right here right now... Fully feeling the ramifications of the #thechetcoeffect. But I’ll call this one #thelavaeffect I feel humbled beyond words. The gravity and the feeling of this all has me high on adrenaline but the minute I sit down and actually let my brain think about it for more than 10 seconds I become overwhelmed with emotion that chokes me up. It is not necessarily a bad thing it is just very intense and it is the one thing that has kept me present throughout all of this. Respecting and holding onto my intuition is the only thing that has ever grounded me and lead me in my life. I thank it. I am eternally in gratitude for the synchronicity of my life. Mahalo ke akua. . . #thelavaeffect #mahalokeakua #humbled #grateful #lavachasers #lavagroundzero #leilanieruption #leilani #demianbarrios #chetcoeffect #thechetcoeffect

A post shared by Demian Barrios (@dbphotogallery) on

The lava bursts came after hundreds of earthquakes rattled the area for days, with quakes measuring magnitudes of 5.0 or higher, according to the Associated Press. The quakes were triggered after the Puu Oo crater floor began to collapse.

“The mood in Hawaii, when you live here, you’re very aware of the various volcanoes we have. Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes, it’s been active since 1983,” he says. “It’s one of the big attractions, actually, the number one attraction in the Hawaiian islands is to go up to the volcanoes and be able to see the lava and craters. We have several million people a year come for that but that’s been shut down because of the danger. There’s a lot of unpredictability.”

While many are taking shelter and helping others from dangerous debris, the state is currently under high alert.

» Here's how to help victims of Hawaii volcano, earthquakes

“Ohana is the way of life here. The spirit is good but I think it’s a nervous time for people on the island,” says Richmond, who adds that another risk is the hazardous air coming up from affected areas.

“The danger is that if the wind changes direction, you can be safe one minute and overcome by these fumes so it’s a life and death situation in many of those areas,” he cautions.

Concluding, “People that live here know that you do not want to mess with the volcano and the lava eruption. It’s just common sense.”

WATCH: Hundreds Forced to Evacuate as Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Spews Lava Into Nearby Town

Over 1,500 Hawaii residents have been ordered to evacuate their homes since the volcano first erupted on May 3.

Mayor Harry Kim declared a state of emergency in Hawaii County, according to a statement from Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced in a tweet that he had activated the Hawaii National Guard to help with security and evacuations.

Several shelters have been opened in surrounding towns as officials have detected “extremely high levels of dangerous Sulfur Dioxide gas in evac area,” according to the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency.

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