DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (AP) — President Barack Obama called Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Monday to receive an update on the state's wildfires and express his condolences to the families of the 19 firefighters who died in the blaze and to all whose lives have been impacted by the fires.
Obama, who is on a trip to Africa, also expressed his gratitude to the hundreds of first responders who continue to work around the clock to protect homes and businesses.
During the call, the president reinforced his commitment to providing necessary federal support to Arizona and to local first responders fighting the fire. The administration says it will continue to keep in constant contact with local officials and coordinate with federal agencies.
Obama and Brewer have had a sometimes frosty relationship dating back to 2012 when the governor was caught on camera pointing her finger at Obama on a Mesa airport tarmac during a heated conversation about illegal immigration and other issues.
Earlier Monday, Obama said America's thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the firefighters. He called their deaths a heartbreaking reminder that emergency personnel put their lives on the line every day while rushing toward danger.
"We are heartbroken about what happened," he said.
Obama said his administration is prepared to help Arizona investigate how the deaths happened. He predicted the incident will force government leaders to answer broader questions about how they handle increasingly destructive and deadly wildfires.
The firefighters, members of an elite crew fighting a forest fire northwest of Phoenix, were overtaken Sunday by a fast-moving blazed fueled by hot winds. Some 200 homes also were destroyed.