U.S. President Barack Obama has issued a disaster declaration for the western U.S. state of Colorado, where he will travel Friday to survey the damage caused by a massive wildfire that has destroyed hundreds of homes and killed at least one person.
Authorities say 346 homes have been destroyed since Tuesday, when the Waldo Canyon fire suddenly began raging out of control, forcing about 36,000 people in Colorado Springs, the state’s second largest city, to evacuate their homes. The city’s police chief told reporters Thursday that a body had been found in the debris of a burned out home where two people had been reported missing.
Obama’s declaration makes federal disaster funds available to to assist people affected by the Waldo Canyon fire and another massive wildfire in northern Colorado that destroyed 257 homes and killed one woman earlier this month
The Waldo Canyon fire started last Saturday in Pike National Forest, and has consumed over 6,000 hectares of land, at one point threatened the U.S. Air Force Academy. Several days of hot weather and high winds have fueled the fire, with temperatures soaring above 37 degrees Celsius. The blaze is 15 percent contained, thanks to cooler temperatures and calmer winds to helped the firefighting efforts.
The cause of the fire has not been determined. The FBI is investigating to determine if any criminal activity was involved.
The Colorado fires are among several that have raged across much of the western United States in recent weeks, including one in the nearby state of Utah that claimed the life of one person.