Obama visits wildfire-ravaged Colorado
Colorado Springs: US President Barack Obama on Friday visited neighbourhoods ravaged by a wildfire in a Colorado city.
Obama visited the swing state after issuing a disaster declaration and promising federal funds earlier in the day.
Over 30,000 people have been evacuated in what is now the most destructive wildfire in state history.
"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 neighbourhood where the fire left some homes standing but levelled surrounding properties.
"We all recognise that there but for the grace of God go I. We've got to make sure that we have each others' backs."
Obama's appearance in Colorado took on added significance coming less than five months before the November 06 Presidential Election. The state is a crucial bellwether in the contest between Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, and the President's visit illustrated the enormous power of incumbency he enjoys to deliver not only assistance but to show compassion and command.
Stopping to greet firefighters and other first responders, Obama said: "The country is grateful for your work. The country's got your back." He later stopped at a YMCA shelter, where he was greeted with cheers and told volunteers "you guys are making us proud."
Obama spent a swift three hours in Colorado Springs, meeting only a handful of evacuees from fire-affected or threatened neighbourhoods. The trip offered images of the President inspecting charred remains of a neighbourhood but presented few opportunities for emotion-packed moments. Most of his time was spent with firefighters, or walking with state and local officials through evacuated neighbourhoods.
The President first saw the fires and the smoky mountains as Air Force One approached Colorado Springs. His motorcade then weaved slowly through the neighborhood of Mountain Shadows, passing the wreckage of dozens of burned down homes and charred cars, including a melted Ford Taurus and a Toyota RAV-4.
He had special words for a group of firefighters who had just recently managed to save some houses in a subdivision attacked by the flames.
"They're genuine heroes," he said. He was accompanied by Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and members of the state's congressional delegation.
Obama also praised the cooperation between all levels of government.
Colorado, with huge swaths of independent-minded voters, holds significant political weight in November. In a tight election, the state's nine electoral votes could make the difference between a win or a loss. Obama won Colorado in 2008.
(With Agency inputs)