Michelle Obama thanks firefighters in Colorado

Associated Press
First Lady Michelle Obama greets supporters and volunteers during a campaign stop at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo., on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) – Michelle Obama began her second day of political campaigning in the West by reflecting on wildfires that have burned down hundreds of homes and charred huge sections of Colorado and other states in the region.

“I just want to say that our hearts and our prayers are with all of the families affected by the fires here in this state and in other states out West,” Mrs. Obama told nearly 3,000 Democrats gathered for a campaign rally in suburban Denver.

She then thanked firefighters and emergency responders working on the blazes, saying, “America stands behind you every step of the way.”

A 93-square-mile wildfire burning in northern Colorado has destroyed more homes than any other in state history. And elsewhere Wednesday, firefighters were battling blazes in Arizona, California, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada and even the president’s home state of Hawaii.

After talking about the fires, the first lady gave a routine campaign speech speech to a crowd south of Denver. Mrs. Obama said the economy is on the mend, that the president’s health care overhaul has helped young people and that the administration is working to help students afford college.

As in Nevada on Tuesday, Mrs. Obama also talked up her husband’s order that his administration stop deporting some young illegal immigrants. She also said he’s still pushing for a federal bill on citizenship for college students.

“He believes that it is time to stop denying responsible young people opportunities in this country just because they’re the children of undocumented immigrants,” she said to applause.

The first lady did not mention the flap at a Denver college, where officials set a special tuition rate for illegal immigrant students that the state’s Republican attorney general says is against the law.

Michelle Obama talked for about 30 minutes, then headed south to Pueblo for an afternoon rally. The first lady also stopped in Colorado last month, when she was in Colorado Springs at the 2012 Warrior Games to applaud more than 200 U.S. servicemen for their courage.

In the south Denver gym Wednesday, Michelle Obama was welcomed with near-constant cheers. About two dozen protesters stood outside the high school, waving signs critical of the president. One protester said she came out to tell the first lady and the president’s supporters that Colorado’s economy is recovering too slowly.

“Our unemployment rate has just not moved off the dime much,” said Lori Horn, a 50-year-old Centennial woman with two children enrolled in the high school where Mrs. Obama spoke.

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