10,000 still displaced in raging Colorado wildfireAssociated Press
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — About 10,000 people remained displaced by the largest wildfire in Colorado history Saturday, a day after President Barack Obama visited the scene and called it a “major disaster.” Two burned bodies have been found so far, and police say fewer than 10 people may be unaccounted for.
The Waldo Canyon fire at the edge of Colorado Springs — home of the flagship U.S. Olympic Committee training center — was 30 percent contained. Its danger has kept investigators from visiting the area where the fire broke out on June 23 to determine the cause.
More than 30,000 people initially were evacuated, and more than 350 homes have burned. The two bodies were found in the ruins of one house. The victims’ names haven’t been released.
“It looks like hell. I would imagine it felt like a nuclear bomb went off. There was fire everywhere,” said exhausted firefighter Rich Rexach, who had been working 12-hour days since Tuesday
Obama’s visit Friday was seen as a partly political one, as the western state will be one of the top battlegrounds in November’s presidential election. Polls show the race is close between Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
“Whether it’s fires in Colorado or flooding in the northern parts of Florida, when natural disasters like this hit, America comes together,” Obama said after touring a neighborhood where the fire left some homes standing.
He met a handful of evacuees but spent most of his time with firefighters or state and local officials.
Colorado, with huge swaths of independent-minded voters, holds significant political weight. In a tight election, its nine electoral votes could make the difference between a win or a loss in the state-by-state fight for the White House. Obama won Colorado in 2008.
Every decision Obama makes to visit a disaster zone is done under the shadow of former President George W. Bush’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which irrevocably damaged his presidency.
Bush was widely criticized as detached and uncaring when he viewed the flooding of New Orleans from the air rather than meeting with people on the ground. White House officials said at the time that they didn’t want Bush’s presence to distract from recovery efforts.