U.S. President Barack Obama (R) delivers remarks next to Vice President Joe Biden at LGBT Pride Month celebration at the White House in Washington June 13, 2013. (Photo : REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will attend the memorial of the 19 firefighters that were killed in a wildfire in Arizona, the White House announced.
According to The White House, U.S. President Barack Obama will not be available for the memorial that is scheduled on Tuesday in Prescott, Arizona because he is scheduled to attend several important meetings.
The event will take place at an arena in Prescott Valley wherein the bodies of the ill-fated firefighters will be taken into a procession, the Prescott Fire Department confirmed.
The 19 firefighters, who were members of the highly skilled unit Granite Mountain Hotshots, were killed by a rampaging wildfire that overran them while trying to control the fire on the mountainside of Yarnell Hill, located northwest of Phoenix.
The tragic incident is reportedly the deadliest day for U.S. firefighters since the 9/11 terror attack in New York. It is also considered the second greatest loss of life in a wildfire in almost 80 years, next to the 1933 wildfire at the Griffith Park that killed at least 25 men.
On Saturday, officials said that the lightning-sparked wildfire is now 90 percent controlled, but most of the residents in the area are still not allowed to return home. Deputy incident commander Jerome MacDonald told Reuters that it could take long for them to restore the gas and electricity service in the area.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., appealed to the federal government, saying that more money should be allocated for clearing flammable brush in fire-prone areas to avoid, or at least minimize, wildfire risk. McCain also pointed out that federal automatic spending cut will have a direct effect to the wildland firefighting program.
"We need to clear these forests and we need to make it so that the damage done by these fires is not as catastrophic as what we just saw," McCain during a news conference in Prescott.
At least 114 buildings, most of these are home of residents in the area, were destroyed since a lightning triggered the wildfire on June 28.