‘We’re here with you’: President Biden, first lady tour areas ravaged by Marshall fire | News

President Joe Biden promised on Friday that Coloradans who lost their homes and businesses to the devastating wildfire that swept through suburban neighborhoods in Boulder County last week can count on the federal government to support communities as they rebuild. .

Biden, accompanied by his wife, Jill, and Colorado officials, met with families who lost their homes and businesses in Louisville and Superior after touring areas devastated by the Dec. 30 Marshall Fire, which destroyed and damaged more than 1,000 structures and burned more than 6,000 acres.

Speaking at the Louisville Senior and Recreation Center, Biden said he was impressed by the “incredible courage and resolve” on display among residents affected by the disaster, which ranks as the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history.

“It’s amazing, amazing what people do in crisis situations,” Biden said. “And my message to them and everyone affected by this is that you are not only helping each other, but we are here with you. We are not leaving. The federal government is not going away. “

Addressing Governor Jared Polis, who was on stage, Biden added: “The governor has been an incredible partner.”

Polis urged the president to visit the area a week ago and Biden officially approved a major disaster declaration on Saturday. The measure makes federal funds available to help provide temporary housing and home repairs, as well as low-cost loans to cover uninsured property.

In addition to Polis, the two US senators from Colorado, Democrats Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, and US Representative Joe Neguse, the Lafayette Democrat representing the area, accompanied the president and the first lady.

More than 35,000 people were evacuated before the rapid fire, propelled by the completely dry grass and hurricane-force winds. Authorities on Friday identified partial human remains discovered Wednesday as Robert Sharpe, 69, of Boulder. The whereabouts of another missing person remain unknown.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, although investigators have narrowed their search to an area south of Boulder where a bystander captured video of a burning shed on December 30, when the fire started.

“It’s as devastating as it looks on TV,” Biden said after touring the damage, noting that he couldn’t imagine anything more terrifying than a fire.

“We had the opportunity to meet with dozens of families in the neighborhoods across the street, many of whom live in homes, and it’s really amazing to see the courage,” Biden said.

He noted that some police officers who lost their own homes stayed on the job, helping others.

“I think it is a measure of who we are as a country,” he said. “And we just walked the streets of Louisville and a whole neighborhood disappeared. But people here and all over Boulder County are supporting each other. It’s stepping up.”

Before arriving at the recreation center, Biden and his entourage visited families who lost their homes in Louisville’s Harper Lake neighborhood, where charred foundations lay under a blanket of snow alongside burned vehicles.

“We are lucky to have a lot of good friends,” said a man as he hugged the first lady. After Biden hugged the man, the son of the man told the president, “We definitely need help.”

At the recreation center, Jill Biden spoke briefly, praising “firefighters, police, EMTs, and rescue and recovery teams for doing a great job for this community.”

He also expressed his condolences to the families who lost pets in the fire.

“I would like to say, on a personal note, the governor told me how many of you lost your family pet. And you know, they are family members too, so I just want to say how sorry we are for the loss of their pets because we are animal people, so we know how difficult that loss is, ”he said.

Biden said he surveyed some of the terrain, recalling his September visit to the nearby campus of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which develops solar, wind and other renewable technologies.

He referred to the climate crisis and the role that experts say it played in the rare early winter fire.

“This situation is a flashing code red for our nation,” Biden said. “The combination of extreme drought, the driest period from June to December ever recorded, ever recorded, unusually strong winds, no snow on the ground to begin with, created a tinderbox, a literal tinderbox.”

He said the area burned nationally in wildfires last year is equivalent to the entire state of New Jersey being burned to the ground.

“We cannot ignore the reality that these fires are being supercharged, they are being supercharged by the change in climate,” he said.

Using a trademark phrase, Biden touted his administration’s proposals to combat climate change.

“So there is a lot that can be done,” he said. “It is also going to create a significant amount of jobs. The reason I am telling you this: I know it is not a consolation that you have lost your home now, but it is that we are going to be able to do a lot of renewable things that allow you not only rebuild, but also allow yourself to rebuild and rebuild better, rebuild better than before. “

Referring to the effects of climate change on extreme weather events, Biden said: “The bottom line here is that we have to muster the courage to do something about it, to better rebuild as a nation.”

He added: “We have a recovery here in Boulder County that will take a long time. I will not fool you. We will stay with you for as long as necessary. We will be here every step of the way, I promise. It’s going to be better, it’s going to be better. “

In concluding his remarks, Biden said the entire nation was thinking of the residents of Boulder County. He added that his grandfather used to tell him, “Joe keep the faith,” but his grandmother would chime in, “No, Joey, spread that.” Let’s spread the faith and do it. “

The Bidens left Denver International Airport around 6:30 p.m., bound for Las Vegas, where they plan to attend the funeral of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who died last week, on Saturday.

Following Biden’s visit, Neguse thanked the President and the First Lady in a statement for seeing first-hand “the impact this disaster has had on our community and the ways our community is coming together to help each other through this devastating tragedy. “

Neguse added: “In the days and months to come, our federal, state and local governments will be united to ensure that our community and every affected family and individual receive the help they need.”

Louisville, CO

– Associated Press and White House Pool contributed to this article.


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