Obama declares wildfire a major disaster, after tour of ravaged area


Colorado Springs:President Barack Obama arrived in Colorado yesterday to tour the devastation left by a Colorado wildfire he declared a “major disaster” that has destroyed 347 homes and forced the evacuation of 35,000 people from the edge of the state’s second-largest city.

Before landing, Air Force One flew over part of the Rocky Mountains where smoke could be seen rising from the areas ravaged by what officials say is the most destructive blaze in state history. At least one death has been blamed on the fire. The blaze had roared unchecked on Tuesday night through communities in the northwestern corner of the city and threatened the US Air Force Academy campus. But the lighter winds that helped firefighters gain new ground against the inferno on Thursday were expected to continue yesterday, fire officials said. They said the wildfire did not grow overnight and it is now 15 per cent contained.

Aerial photos of devastation unleashed by the so-called Waldo Canyon Fire showed large swaths of neighbourhoods reduced to gray ash; one house after another obliterated while adjacent dwellings survived mostly unscathed.

Authorities confirmed the full extent of destruction, with 347 houses gutted by fire and more than 20,000 homes still threatened. Colorado Springs police chief Peter Carey said a body was found in the debris of a burned-out home, marking the first known death from the blaze. – (Reuters)