DENVER – President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden arrived in Colorado just after 2 p.m. Friday to tour the damage from the Marshall Fire and meet with victims and said the community would have the full support of the federal government moving forward.
The Bidens were joined on the flight back to Denver by Rep. Joe Neguse and Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper. They were greeted on the tarmac by Gov. Jared Polis, Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera and Senate President Leroy Garcia.
The group toured the damage from the Marshall Fire, which destroyed 1,091 homes and businesses and damaged another 179 a week ago during a hurricane-force wind event and amid extreme drought conditions, and spoke with people who are among thousands who lost their home.
Photos: Bidens tour damage of Marshall Fire, meet with victims in Boulder County
Ahead of a tour of neighborhoods on foot, the president saw the devastation from the air in a helicopter tour with Bennet, Hickenlooper, Polis and Neguse.
Surveying damage from the #MarshallFire with @POTUS, @SenatorBennet, @GovofCO, and @RepJoeNeguse. We're ready to help Boulder County recover & rebuild. pic.twitter.com/OVxSCHWsPV— Senator John Hickenlooper (@SenatorHick) January 7, 2022
The president and first lady were seen meeting with several families in front of their burnt-down homes in the Harper Lake are and with Louisville firefighters. He gave a long hug to a woman who had lost her home.
The Bidens then met with community members and county and fire officials in a private meeting at the rec center in Louisville before addressing the group publicly about his visit.
In a speech to round out his visit, the president said he was amazed by the courage he had seen and heard about during his visit from residents and first responders who lost their homes while also working to protect those evacuating. And he said the community should stick together to get through the aftermath of the fire.
“Hang on to one another. The way you’re going to get through this, because we’ve been through a few things ourselves, is just hanging on to one another,” Biden said. “You’ll get through this. You will get through this and be stronger for it.”
He pledged his full continuing support from him and his administration in helping residents get through the months and years to follow.
“My message to them and everyone impacted by this is that not only are you helping each other, but we’re here with you. We’re not going away,” he said. “…We’re going to make sure that everything you need occurs, including clearing all the debris and putting people in a position to be able to rebuild,” he said. “…I intend to do whatever it takes as long as it takes to support you, your state and local government, to help you recover and rebuild these communities.”
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden also thanked the community for their work and for meeting with them and told residents who lost pets she was sorry for that happened and that she knows “what a tough loss that is.”
Biden acknowledged the recovery was going to “take a long time” but said he and his administration would keep up with the community’s efforts.
“We’re going to stay with you. As long as it takes, we’re going to be there for every step of the way, I promise. And it’s going to be better, it’s going to be better. We’re going to get through this together.”
Biden approved a Major Disaster Declaration on Dec. 31, which freed up fire recovery funds for victims to get temporary housing, recover home repair costs and low-cost loans for uninsured property, among other things.
In a statement, Gov. Polis thanked the president and first lady for visiting and talking with the Boulder County community.
“President Biden's own personal story of unspeakable loss and grief shone through today as he genuinely connected on a human level with our affected residents and families. I am grateful for him coming personally to comfort us in our time of need and recommitting to support our recovery and healing. I thank President Biden and the First Lady for their unwavering support for our resilient community. We will continue working together on recovery,” Polis said. “I welcome President Biden to Colorado and applaud his administration for making vital resources like the FEMA Disaster Assistance Center and Disaster Unemployment Insurance available quickly to those who survived the Marshall fire.”
Neguse, the Democrat who represents the area where the fire burned, said he was thankful for the Bidens’ visit and that he continued to talk with the president Friday about what more will be needed for the community.
“Today, the President saw Colorado’s strength and resilience on full display. As our community begins the long road to recovery following the unprecedented Marshall Fire, we were grateful to have President Biden and the first lady in Boulder County to see firsthand the impact this disaster has had on our community and the ways in which our community is coming together to help each other through this devastating tragedy,” Neguse said in a statement.
“Over the last week we’ve worked closely with state and local leaders to equip those in Superior, Louisville and throughout Boulder County with adequate federal resources as they begin to rebuild. I am deeply grateful to President Biden and his Administration for swiftly authorizing a Disaster Declaration last weekend to begin the flow of federal funds to our community,” Neguse added. “Throughout the visit today, I reiterated to the President the urgent need to bring additional help for short and long-term housing solutions, given our community’s affordable housing crisis, and expanded resources for local fire departments as Colorado faces increasingly more devastating wildfires. In the days and months ahead, our local, state and federal governments will be united to ensure our community and every family and individual impacted receives the help they need.”