WASHINGTON (AP/CBS4) – President Barack Obama on Friday will tour the damage of the wildfires roaring in Colorado, offering a level of personal attention that’s become more essential for any White House since the botched federal response to Hurricane Katrina.
Obama on Wednesday called Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach for updates on the fires throughout the state, particularly in Colorado Springs, the state’s second-largest city. Intense fires there were nearing the U.S. Air Force Academy, where area residents were evacuating.
In the midst of a re-election race, and on the eve of a landmark Supreme Court ruling on his health care law, Obama sought to show he was monitoring and helping as a disaster unfolded. Every federal response is now viewed in a post-Katrina world in which presidents err on the side of engaging too soon instead of too late.
A White House statement said Obama “made clear that he has directed his team to remain focused on the fires.” The president is expected to meet with firefighters and view the damage in Colorado. Federal support is also being provided to firefighters in Alaska, Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
Obama told the two Colorado officials to identify any other help the government can provide.
Colorado is considered one of the toss-up states that could swing the election in November to Obama or his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
Official White House News Release
Today, President Obama called Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper as well as Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach to receive an update on damaging fires that are impacting a number of communities across the state, including the devastating Waldo Canyon fire that is affecting families, homes and businesses in Colorado Springs, CO. The President expressed his concern about the extent of damage to homes in the Colorado Springs area, and informed both the Governor and the Mayor that he plans to travel to the area Friday to view the damage and thank the responders bravely battling the fire.
The President reiterated his administration’s focus, through the US Forest Service as well as the Department of Interior and FEMA, on continuing to bring all resources to bear to assist local responders in Colorado and a number of Western States currently being impacted by fires. Seventeen air tankers have cycled in and out of firefighting action over the last 48 hours across the western states. More than 8,400 personnel, 578 fire engines and 79 helicopters are operating on wildfires around the U.S., with more than half of active federal wildfire-fighting resources are currently staged in Colorado.
Federal support is also being provided to local officials battling fires in Alaska, Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
The President made clear that he has directed his team to remain focused on the fires. He asked the Governor and the Mayor to identify any additional resources that could be provided and informed both that his thoughts and prayers are with responders and families impacted by these and other fires burning across the western United States.
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