President Obama on Monday mourned the loss 19 firefighters who were killed in the line of duty while fighting wildfires in a forest northwest of Phoenix, calling them “heroes” and the incident a “terrible tragedy.”
“They were heroes — highly-skilled professionals who, like so many across our country do every day, selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives and property of fellow citizens they would never meet,” Mr. Obama said in a statement.
The Associated Press reported that it was the deadliest wildfire involving firefighters in the U.S. in at least 30 years.
A lightening strike started the fire on Friday, and it quickly spread over 2,000 acres on Sunday thanks to a combination of soaring temperatures, low humidity and gusty conditions.
“In recent days, hundreds of firefighters have battled extremely dangerous blazes across Arizona and the Southwest,” Mr. Obama said. “The federal government is already assisting, and we will remain in close contact with state and local officials to provide the support they need. But today, Michelle and I join all Americans in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of these brave firefighters and all whose lives have been upended by this terrible tragedy.”
Mr. Obama has been traveling through Africa and is scheduled to be in Tanzania on Monday.