Obama views first hand Colorado fire devastation
US President Barack Obama on Friday visited a neighbourhood devastated by the Waldo Canyon wildfire, the most destructive in the history of Colorado, and pledged further federal help to deal with what he called "the enormous devastation.", dpa reported.
Obama flew to the city of Colorado Springs from Washington DC and his motorcade made its way through the eerily empty streets of the Mountain Shadows neighbourhood, which bore the brunt of the fire's destruction. The area was evacuated before the flames lashed the area, and only one fatality has so far been reported.
Obama spoke to reporters amid scenes of total destruction as piles of rubble and charred trees stretched in all directions. Colorado Springs lies at the foot of one of the Rocky Mountain's most famous mountains, Pike's Peak.
"We just had a chance to tour some of the damage done by this devastating fire," said Obama, who praised the efforts made by firefighters and the "outstanding cooperation between federal state and local agencies."
"The devastation is enormous and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families that have been affected," he said. "When natural disasters like this occur, America comes together. We've got to make sure we have each others backs, that everyone's pulling together."
Obama visited the area after the first fatality of the fire was discovered.
But there was also better news for the 30,000-plus evacuated residents as lower temperatures overnight enabled firefighters to make progress in containing the most destructive blaze in Colorado's history.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), the blaze was 15 per cent contained Friday morning, and no new structures burnt overnight. With cooler weather expected to continue, officials were cautiously optimistic of making further gains on the Waldo Canyon blaze which has destroyed 346 homes so far.
A second Colorado fire, the High Park Fire, has destroyed 257 homes and is 85 per cent contained.
Citing Colorado Springs police chief Pete Carey, the Denver Post reported that the human remains had been found in a home in the Mountain Shadows neighbourhood. A second person had been newly reported missing, along with 10 others who continue to remain unaccounted for.
The scale of the devastation prompted Obama to declare it a major disaster, triggering federal assistance for local authorities dealing with the blaze and its impact.