US President Barack Obama was expected in Colorado on Friday, where the most destructive wildfire in the western state's history has torched nearly 350 homes and left one person dead.
The Waldo Canyon Fire, which tore into the outskirts of the state's second largest city Colorado Springs earlier this week, has destroyed at least 346 houses and forced some 36,000 people to evacuate, according to officials.
Ahead of his visit, Obama declared a "major disaster" in Colorado, releasing federal funds to aid local efforts to aid evacuees.
Late Thursday, Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey announced the first casualty of the blaze, saying a body had been found in the burned-out rubble of a house and that another person was missing who lived at the same address.
The fire has torched some 16,750 acres (6,700 hectares), officials said, revising downward an earlier estimate. The blaze is just 15 percent contained, and is one of several wildfires straining firefighting assets across the front range of the Rocky Mountains, a major destination for winter skiing and adventure sports.
Officials in Colorado Springs had planned to meet privately Thursday night with homeowners -- many of whom fled with no time to collect their belongings -- and asked reporters to respect residents' privacy following the meeting.
"It's going to be a tough evening, but we're going to get through it," a weary-looking Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach said earlier, adding that the Red Cross, chaplains and other counselors would be present. "The one positive note was that many businesses and individuals had offered help to victims," he said.