President Obama visits and declares Colorado a “Disaster Area”

Posted on 30 Jun 2012 at 8:46am

President Obama visited the wildfire-ravaged landscape in the foothills of Colorado Springs today, calling it a “Major Disaster,” and pledged to release federal funding to the counties affected.

“The devastation is enormous,” Obama said. “This community is obviously heartbroken.”

The Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs, now considered the most destructive in the state’s history, has devoured 346 homes and killed at least two people.

More than 16,000 acres have been destroyed since the blaze started Saturday. Only 15 percent of the fire has been contained.

The Air Force announced this afternoon that it would activate all eight of its C-130s Saturday to spread fire retardant on the area. Just four had been used this week. The Air Force said it had not used all eight of its firefighting planes since 2008.

The cause of the fire is unclear but officials will investigate to determine whether arson played a role, El Paso County Undersheriff Paula Presley told ABC News.

“It’s really important that they get to the point of origin before we can ever get to that determination, anytime we have a fire of undetermined origin, we’re going to treat it as arson. … To ensure that it is thoroughly investigated and we get to the point of origin and make sure that either rule out arson, or determine that it is arson”.

The investigation will have to wait, though, until the fire is under control.

“This in many ways is a type of terrorism where somebody is trying to destroy an entire city, essentially,” Presley said. “I’m a native here. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach has welcomed the president’s visit; and said,

“I really appreciate the president coming here … if nothing more than just to reassure us that this a focus at a national level, that there are people all over this country who are concerned for our citizens and those who have lost their homes,”

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Smoke from the Waldo Canyon Fire rises near the USAF Academy's Cadet Chapel as cadets head for a briefing on evacuation procedures, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. REUTERS/Handout
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Colorado wildfires
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President Barack Obama visits with volunteers and evacuees at the YMCA serving as an evacuation center, Friday, June 29, 2012, in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Credit: AP)
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U.S. President Barack Obama looks over fire damaged homes in the Mountain Shadow neighborhood while shaking hands with fire fighters in Colorado Springs, June 29, 2012. (Credit: REUTERS)
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A U.S. Secret Service counter sniper watches out as U.S. President Barack Obama walks around fire damaged homes in the Mountain Shadow neighborhood in Colorado Springs, Colorado June 29, 2012. (Credit: REUTERS)
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U.S. President Barack Obama walks around fire damaged homes in the Mountain Shadow neighborhood in Colorado Springs, June 29, 2012.(Credit: REUTERS)
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U.S. President Barack Obama surveys fire damaged homes in the Mountain Shadow neighborhood while talking to fire fighters in Colorado Springs, June 29, 2012. Obama declared those areas earlier on Friday as a federal disaster area releasing federal funds to help fight the blazes. (Credit: REUTERS)
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President Barack Obama speaks to the media as he tours the Mountain Shadow neighborhood devastated by wildfires, Friday, June 29, 2012, in, Colorado Springs, Colo. From left are, Tom Tidwell, U.S. Forest Service Chief, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, the president, and Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. (Credit: AP)
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U.S. President Barack Obama looks over fire damaged homes in the Mountain Shadow neighborhood while shaking hands with fire fighters in Colorado Springs, June 29, 2012. (Credit: REUTERS)
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U.S. President Barack Obama looks over fire damaged homes in the Mountain Shadow neighborhood while shaking hands with fire fighters in Colorado Springs, June 29, 2012. (Credit: REUTERS)
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U.S. President Barack Obama walks around fire damaged homes in the Mountain Shadow neighborhood in Colorado Springs, June 29, 2012. Obama declared the areas earlier today as a federal disaster area releasing federal funds to help fight the blazes. (Credit: REUTERS)
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Colorado A Disaster Area
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