By Justin Sink - 06/29/12 07:40 PM EDT
President Obama visited Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday to tour the devastation from a sprawling wildfire that has consumed some 350 homes and claimed at least one life.
The president began his tour in a neighborhood consumed by fire three days prior. Homes in the neighborhood, like those throughout the region, had been torched by the flames, leaving little but foundation behind. The twisted, melted frames of automobiles in garages and on the street served notice of the destruction that had swept through.
The president spoke with firefighters who explained how the fire had jumped from one house to the next, and said he was stunned by the aftermath.
He added that it was fortunate there had not been a greater loss of life, and said he admired how the American people band together in times of crisis. The president went on to applaud coordination between federal and local teams.
"I think what you see here is an example of outstanding coordination and cooperation between federal, state and local agencies. We have been putting everything we have into trying to deal with what’s one of the worst fires that we’ve seen here in Colorado," Obama said.
It rained briefly as the president's motorcade traveled to the first site, but not enough to aid in firefighting efforts.
"We’re going to have a long way to go before all these fires are put out. We need a little bit of help from Mother Nature." the president said, pledging additional federal support to help the efforts.
Later, the president traveled to a fire station serving as the rallying point for the firefighters in the region. The president shook hands with around 50 firefighters and praised them for their courage.
"We can provide all the resources, we can make sure that they’re well-coordinated, but as I just told these firefighters, what we can do is to provide them with the courage and the determination and the professionalism, the heart that they show when they’re out there battling these fires," Obama said, calling them men "genuine heroes."
At a final stop, the president visited a YMCA shelter where families displaced by the fires were huddled. There, he thanked volunteer workers for their efforts.
Nationwide, some 47 large wildfires were being fought Friday, according to The Associated Press, with the bulk of them centered in the Western United States. In the Rocky Mountain region alone, 32 new fires — two of them large — were reported in the last 24 hours, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Some 1,000 firefighting crews have been deployed to the Colorado Springs area alone, where dry conditions and wind gusts of up to 65 miles per hour were fanning fires across 16,700 acres. White House spokesman Jay Carney emphasized that no resources were being diverted from fighting the fires because of the president's trip to the area.
Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach said Thursday that he was glad the president was visiting.
"I really appreciate the president coming here ... if nothing more than just to reassure us that this has 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," Bach said, according to CNN. "And I do plan to ask for cash."
This post was updated at 6:48 p.m.