Biden addresses Coloradans after wildfires: ‘Incredible courage and resolve’

Associated Press / Susan Walsh

President Biden on Friday praised neighbors for helping one another in Colorado after surveying the damage from the devastating wildfires in the Boulder area last week. 

“It’s amazing, amazing what people do in crises. And my message to them and everyone impacted by this is that, you know, not only are you helping each other, but we’re here with you,” Biden said on Friday at Louisville Recreation & Senior Center in Louisville, Colo. 

“We’re not going to go away. The federal government’s not going to go away. The governor’s been an incredible partner,” he added, looking at Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) who was with him onstage.

He added that the federal government will do “everything we possibly can.”

“A number of you have asked as we’ve gone through the tables and met other people in your neighborhood is what do we do now? Well, hang on to one another. Hang on to one another,” he said. “Find purpose in what you’ve been through and what you’re going to do.”

Nearly 1,000 homes were destroyed when wildfires ripped through neighborhoods in the suburbs northwest of Denver just before the new year. Two people are still missing from the wildfires and on Thursday, officials said partial human remains were found in an impacted area.

“You know what Jill and I noticed … the incredible courage and resolve that you all show. We got a chance to meet with scores of families in the neighborhoods across the street, many of which homes you all live in, and it’s really amazing to see the courage,” Biden said in his remarks. 

He said that some police officers who lost their own homes still went to help when they were called in. 

“It’s a measure of, I think, who are we as a country,” he said. 

He also mentioned that one life has been lost so far due to the wildfires. 

“People here and across Boulder County are stepping up for one another. They’re stepping up,” he said.

Biden approved a Colorado disaster declaration on Saturday, ordering federal aid to be made available to those impacted by wildfires. The aid may include federal grants for temporary housing and repairs and loans to cover uninsured property. 

“It’s as devastating as it looks on television, as devastating as the many environmental crises I’ve seen in the last year in 2021. You know, we’ve had over $99 billion in loss in the last little over a year and you know, there’s nothing so frightening in my view as a fire,” Biden said. 

The president noted that, in terms of total acreage, damage from wildfire over the last year is equivalent to the entire state of New Jersey having been burned to the ground. 

“I can’t imagine what it’s like to be here in this neighborhood and see winds whipping up to 100 miles an hour and see flames approaching,” he said. 

He also mentioned his administration’s efforts to address climate change, much of which is included the Build Back Better agenda, which has not passed the Senate.   

“We can’t ignore the reality that these fires are being supercharged, they’re being supercharged by change in the weather,” he said.

During his remarks, the president thanked the lawmakers who joined him on his trip to Colorado, including Polis, Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.).

First lady Jill Biden spoke after the president and offered her condolences to families who lost their pets in the fire.

“On a personal note, the governor told me how many of you lost their family pet. And you know, they’re members of the family too, so I want to just say how terribly sorry we are for the loss of your pets because we’re animal people so, we know what a tough lost that is,” she said.

Before his remarks, the president met with families affected by the Marshall Fire, who were seated at six round tables at the center of the room. He and the first lady moved around each table, sitting down to speak with the families and gave the families presidential M&Ms.

Earlier on Friday, the Bidens and the Colorado lawmakers toured a neighborhood in the town of Louisville, which was filled with snow-covered charred remains of homes, dead trees, and burned-out cars.

The Bidens exchanged hugs with multiple people, including a woman who showed the president the remnants of a foundation of a house, and a man who told the first lady, “we lost everything.” 

“I’m not even properly dressed because this is all I have,” the man said, pointing to his shorts.

“We definitely need help,” the man’s son told the president.  

The president also spoke with the town’s fire chief and sheriff before surveying the damage. 

He will leave Colorado on Friday evening and continue on from Boulder to Las Vegas, where he will attend the memorial service honoring the late Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Saturday.

Tags Harry Reid Jared Polis Jill Biden Joe Biden Joe Neguse John Hickenlooper Michael Bennet

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