Colorado wildfires declared a major federal disaster

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced late Thursday night that the White House had declared the fire-stricken state a major disaster, boosting federal help for devastated communities.

The High Park fire west of Fort Collins destroyed at least 257 homes this month. And earlier Thursday, Colorado Springs Mayor Stephen Bach announced at least 346 homes had been destroyed by the Waldo Canyon fire.

Another blaze, the Flagstaff fire, was burning near Boulder, which appeared safe for the moment. At least eight fires were raging in the state.


“This evening we learned from the White House that our disaster declaration request has been accepted,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “We appreciate the quick review and response. With this funding we will be able to provide much needed assistance to our communities affected by wildfires.”

President Obama is to tour the fire areas on Friday.

“This news, combined with President Obama’s visit, makes clear that the whole country is with us in fighting these fires and recovering from their devastation,” the governor said.

Also late Thursday night, the Colorado Springs police chief announced that a body had been found at a home where two people had been reported missing, the Associated Press reported. About 10 people are unaccounted for.

And the El Paso County sheriff’s office announced containment of the Waldo Canyon fire had grown to 15%, from 10% earlier in the day. More than 32,000 people had to flee, but some evacuation notices were lifted earlier in the day.