Biden named Colorado fire as further evidence of climate change
The president and first lady visited the city of Louisville, badly damaged by last week’s wildfire.
President Joe Biden, visiting the scene of Colorado’s most devastating wildfire in history, said the disaster, which hit Colorado’s forests in winter, was an emergency and another reminder of the rapidly changing climate, a phenomenon that the Biden administration plans to counter with a renewable energy program.
“We cannot ignore the fact that these fires are exacerbated by global warming,” Biden said after visiting the city of Louisville, near Denver, which was hit hard last week by the devastating Marshall Fire.
Two people are missing and likely dead after the fire, which started Dec. 30 due to prairie grass burning, destroyed more than 1,000 residential structures. As a result, the Marshall was the most destructive, in terms of property damage, fire in the history of disaster monitoring in Colorado.
The fire in Boulder County, on the northern edge of the Denver metropolitan area, covered about 6,000 acres (more than 24 square kilometers) and devastated parts of Louisville and the neighboring city of Superior. Driven by hurricane-force winds, the flames sometimes scorched areas of land the size of soccer fields in seconds.
Biden’s trip to Boulder County was his second visit as president to Colorado. The president and first lady, Jill Biden, toured the city’s most damaged area, where blackened structural debris and charred tree trunks protruded from the snow. They spoke with emergency workers and families who had lost their homes in the fire.
The president and first lady were accompanied by Colorado Governor Jared Polis and three local lawmakers.
Addressing first responders and local residents, Biden said he was horrified by the amount of destruction he saw. The president, he said, was impressed by the “incredible courage and determination” of the people battling the blaze.
“We will make sure you have everything you need,” Biden said, addressing the crowd.
He noted that the disaster was the latest in a string of highly destructive wildfires in Colorado and elsewhere in the Western United States that experts say are caused by severe drought and rising. temperatures associated with climate change.
“The situation is a state of emergency for our country,” the president said.
Biden also took the opportunity to introduce his major legislative initiative, the Build Back Better bill, which would provide billions of dollars for forest management, fire suppression and carbon reduction.
The bill, opposed by Republicans, passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives back in November. It still needs to gain approval in the Senate, for which the administration needs the support of all Democratic senators.
While acknowledging that such measures will not bring immediate comfort to people affected by the current fire, Biden said that increased investment in renewable energy will stimulate significant job growth and address the looming threat of new natural disasters related to climate change.
Biden declared the fire that engulfed Boulder County a national disaster, freeing up federal funds to help residents and businesses rebuild.
Typically, Colorado’s wildfire season does not last into the winter because of snow and cold weather. However, climate change and global warming are making vegetation in parts of the western United States drier and more fire-prone.
Catastrophe modeling firm Karen Clark & Company estimates the insurance losses from the fire to be about $1 billion. Local authorities have estimated that the damage to homes alone is more than $500 million.