- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - A gas station in the projected path of lava flowing on Hawaii’s Big Island said Tuesday it would shut down.

Malama Mart Gas N Go in the small town of Pahoa said it would close at 6 p.m.

Aloha Petroleum, which co-owns the gas station, said in a statement a contractor will remove fuel and residual fuel vapors from underground storage tanks over the next three days. It will also remove equipment that has the potential to be reused or potentially reinstalled if the lava flow bypasses the station.

The company is still determining what further steps it may take, said Caroline Witherspoon, a spokeswoman for Aloha Petroleum.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira has said gas stations in the path of the flow would fill their tanks with water and firefighting foam after shutting down.

Lava from Kilauea volcano is currently on course to hit the shopping center that includes the gas station in about a week. Lava was about 1 mile from the shopping center after having moved forward about 275 yards overnight.

The supermarket in the shopping center - Malama Market - has already announced it will close on Thursday. A natural foods store will be Pahoa’s only supermarket after Malama Market closes. The shopping center also has an auto repair shop, a pharmacy and a hair salon.

Oliveira noted the businesses in the shopping center provide important services to the community. They are also among the area’s major employers, he said.

“We’re trying to support the businesses being operational as long as it’s safe to do so and to postpone any closing of the businesses until the very last minute,” he told reporters during a conference call.

He said these interests have to be balanced with the need utilities have to protect or remove critical infrastructure before the lava arrives.

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