U.S.

Biden promises the federal government will stick by communities devastated by Colorado wildfire

Biden, speaking at an entertainment center in Louisville, Colorado, said the damage was heartbreaking seeing his character.

“Gill and I, and my team, have surveyed the damage of the Marshall Fire and it is as devastating as it appears on TV, as devastating as many environmental crises as I have seen in the last year,” Biden said.

After spending more than an hour meeting with the families affected by the fire and listening to their stories, Biden said wildfires are among the natural disasters that affect him the most.

“There is nothing as frightening to me as fire,” Biden said.

He added, “The hard part, I think, is losing the memorabilia – the special things you left away that you lost. But, you know, look at it that way, you have a lot of special dreams to come true. And you’ll be in your new home.”

Authorities say the fast-spreading fire has destroyed more than 6,000 acres and destroyed nearly 1,000 homes. Several inches of snow helped put out the flames, but it also caused power outages for many. Two people are still missing, and Boulder County investigators have found partial human remains. The Colorado coroner said Friday that the remains are identified as Robert Shipp, a 69-year-old man in Boulder, Colorado. The sheriff’s office said earlier this week that the investigation into how the fire broke out was continuing.

During his remarks, Biden told heroic stories of firefighters and ordinary citizens — like a man who made sure enough water was flowing at a local water treatment plant to allow fire crews to fight the blaze — and urged the community to stay together. And lean on each other in their wake.

First Lady Jill Biden paid tribute to the firefighters, police, EMTs and rescue workers who worked to save people from the crawling flames. And in a distinctly personal touch, she also expressed her sympathy to the huddled families whose pets were killed in the fire.

“I can say…what a strong, warm community you are,” she said, “and I would say–on a personal note–the Governor has told me how many of you have lost your pet.” “You know, they’re family members too, so I just want to say how very sorry we are to lose your pets, because we are animals, so, you know, we know what a huge loss that would be.”

The president has made federal funding available to aid state and local recovery efforts, which can also include grants for temporary housing and home repair as well as low-cost loans to cover uninsured losses. The president spoke with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, last Friday about providing federal support.

Biden said Friday that the federal government will do everything in its power to help the region.

“It’s amazing and amazing what people do in crises. My message to them and everyone affected by this is, you know, not only are you helping each other, we are here with you,” Biden said. We will not go away. The federal government is not going away.

FEMA Director Dean Cresswell told CNN over the weekend that federal teams were focused on working with state and local officials to remove debris and develop a housing strategy for immediate as well as long-term needs.

Biden has spoken repeatedly about how the climate crisis is increasing the threat from wildfires, and is responsible for the rise in extreme weather events in recent years, and it happened again on Friday.

“This situation is a flashing red symbol for our nation,” Biden said during his remarks in Colorado. “A combination of extreme drought, the driest June-December period ever recorded — ever recorded, unusually high winds, and no snow on the ground to start the ignition box.

The president has traveled to multiple regions of the country devastated by natural disasters during his nearly one year in office, including multiple regions affected by wildfires.

In the fall, Biden traveled to Idaho and California to survey wildfire damage. The president said that recent severe weather events cost America billions of dollars each year, and he urged large-scale investments to make the country’s infrastructure more resilient to these threats.

The president announced new federal response plans that include paying more firefighters, extending seasonal hiring, adding “augment capacity” by training and equipping additional staff and strengthening fire detection resources. He said the administration will take advantage of satellites and emerging technologies to quickly detect new fires.

During his remarks in Colorado, Biden referred to his legislative agenda as a potential salve for the worst effects of natural disasters from climate change. The president took the opportunity to reflect on a visit to the region in September, when he toured the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the president admitted, “It’s no consolation that you’ve lost your home now, but we’ll be able to do a lot of renewable things that don’t allow you to rebuild.” Not only does it allow you to build and rebuild better, to build back better than before, and it includes billions of dollars for wildfire preparedness, resilience in response to protecting homes, and public resources.”

“The bottom line here is we have to summon the courage to do something about it,” Biden said as he discussed the effects of climate change on wildfires.

He added, “We’ve recovered here in Boulder County and it’s going to take a long time, and I’m not kidding with you. We’ll be with you as long as it takes. We’ll. I’ll be here every step of the way, I promise. You’ll be better, and you’ll be better.”

This story has been updated with additional reports.

CNN’s Donald Judd contributed to this report.

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