WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Friday will tour the damage of the wildfires roaring in Colorado, offering a level of personal attention that's become more essential for any White House since the botched federal response to Hurricane Katrina.
Obama on Wednesday called Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach for updates on the fires throughout the state, particularly in Colorado Springs, the state's second-largest city. Intense fires there were nearing the U.S. Air Force Academy, where area residents were evacuating.
In the midst of a re-election race, and on the eve of a landmark Supreme Court ruling on his health care law, Obama sought to show he was monitoring and helping as a disaster unfolded. Every federal response is now viewed in a post-Katrina world in which presidents err on the side of engaging too soon instead of too late.
A White House statement said Obama "made clear that he has directed his team to remain focused on the fires." The president is expected to meet with firefighters and view the damage in Colorado. Federal support is also being provided to firefighters in Alaska, Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
Obama told the two Colorado officials to identify any other help the government can provide.
Colorado is considered one of the toss-up states that could swing the election in November to Obama or his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.