Obama Declares Colorado Fires Region a Disaster Area

President Barack Obama declared Colorado a federal disaster area, triggering federal funds to help fight High Park and Waldo Canyon fires near Colorado Springs, the state’s second-largest city.

The announcement, released by the White House shortly after midnight, came as the president prepared to assess damage today with state and local officials, who describe it as the worst in state history.

One person was found dead, Police Chief Pete Carey said, the Associated Press reported.

The declaration makes federal funding available in two counties, El Paso and Larimer, that have been scorched by the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires. Money is also available for crisis counseling and unemployment assistance, according to a White House statement.

The Waldo Canyon blaze outside Colorado Springs, in its seventh day, has turned at least 346 homes into ashes. About 32,000 people have evacuated their residences as fires charred 18,500 acres. Flames may not be contained until July 16, according an estimate on the Incident Information System, a federal interagency website that tracks disasters.

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