Sunday, October 2, 2022

WATCH: Biden speaks after examining damage from Marshall fire in Boulder County, Colorado

LUISVILLE, Colorado (AP) – Offering hugs and humor, President Joe Biden consoled Colorado residents trying to rebuild homes and businesses destroyed last week by a rare wind-blown winter fire that engulfed a pair of densely populated suburbs between Denver and Boulder.

See Biden’s comments in the player above.

One victim was identified on Friday and one person remained missing out of some 35,000 people displaced from their homes.

Biden and his wife, Jill, arrived in the Harper Lake area of ​​Louisville on Friday afternoon to inspect the damage, past the charred remains of houses next to the damaged structures that are still standing. They walked down the street where houses were burned to the ground, meeting with residents and local authorities who are overseeing the response and recovery.

Speaking at a recreation center in Louisville, Biden praised the “incredible courage” of the people affected by the fire and pledged the federal government’s full support for the reconstruction.

“You are not only helping each other, but we are here with you, we are not going to leave,” Biden said. “I intend to do whatever it takes as long as it takes to support you.”

The fire broke out unusually late in December, after several months of drought with dry autumn and almost snowless winter. About 1,100 buildings were destroyed, most of which were homes, resulting in approximately $ 513 million in damage.

Biden urged residents to “hold on to one another,” adding, “You can handle this and get stronger.”

The cause of the fire is still being investigated. Investigators narrowed their search for the cause to an area near Boulder, where on December 30 a passer-by filmed a burning barn as the fire started. But it may still take the authorities weeks to figure out how it started.

“I can’t imagine what it would be like to be here in this area and see the wind blowing at up to 100 miles per hour and see the flames approaching,” Biden said.

Most of the destroyed buildings were residential. But the flames also burned eight businesses in Louisville and nearby Upper. Federal, state, and local agencies and nonprofit organizations offer housing assistance, counseling, meals, scholarships, and other assistance to residents.

READ MORE: Authorities say Colorado wildfire destroyed nearly 1,000 homes

Along with the president, two state senators, two members of Congress from the affected area, and Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Deena Criswell, whose agency provides federal assistance, flew aboard Air Force One to Colorado. In Colorado, he met with Gov. Jared Polis, Louisville Mayor Ashley Stoltzmann, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle and Louisville County Fire Superintendent John Wilson, as well as residents and emergency services.

Welcoming the line of firefighters and ambulance personnel one by one, Biden handed out challenge coins with the presidential seal, thanking them for their service with a handshake.

Stacey Moore stood in her backyard Friday afternoon watching a fire destroy the house she has lived in since the 1990s. She was attracted to the area because it needed to be free of wildfires, floods, or tornadoes that are commonly seen in other parts of the state.

“I thought it was perfectly safe,” she said.

“I would like the federal government, as well as our city governments and our state governments, to help educate people on how we can use the best building practices,” she said shortly before Biden arrived. She was told that home insurance would “not come close” to covering the cost of rebuilding.

Authorities on Friday identified the person whose remains were found near the fire earlier this week as 69-year-old Robert Sharpe of Boulder. In a statement from his family, Sharpe was a longtime resident who worked in the construction industry for many years.

“The utter devastation of this event shocked and affected so many in the community,” the family said in a statement, in which they thanked the authorities for their intense search for Sharpe. “Our hearts sympathize with many others who have suffered losses.”

Biden made several trips in the past year to study the effects of weather events, including ice storms in Houston, wildfires in California, and floods in New York and New Jersey.

In mid-December, he visited residents of Dawson Springs, Kentucky, after a series of tornadoes swept across the state and seven other states, killing scores of people.

Biden said Friday that the extreme events underscore America’s need to “muster up the courage” to tackle climate change.

“We cannot ignore the fact that these fires are exacerbated by climate change,” he said. “The situation is a flashing red code for our nation.”

After inspecting the Colorado scene, Biden and the first lady were scheduled to travel to Las Vegas to attend Saturday’s funeral for Harry Reid, the former Senate Majority Leader.

Reed died last week after battling cancer for years at the age of 82. He and Biden worked together in the Senate.

Nation World News Desk
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