by: The Associated Press Updated:
SEATTLE — President Barack Obama says a wildfire that has burned nearly 400 square miles in the north-central part of Washington state, along with blazes in other Western areas, can be attributed to climate change.
Obama, speaking at a fundraiser Tuesday, offered federal help to deal with Washington's wildfire, the largest in the state's history.
He said Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate had authorized an emergency declaration to ensure electrical power.
Obama has asked Congress for $615 million in emergency spending to fight Western wildfires. He said spending on such fires has increased over the years.
He says, "A lot of it has to do with drought, a lot of it has to do with changing precipitation patterns and a lot of that has to do with climate change."
Obama landed Tuesday in Seattle at the start of a three-day West Coast trip, where he'll also visit San Francisco and Los Angeles and plans to attend at least five fundraising events, less than four months ahead of midterm elections that could change Washington's balance of power.
Obama appealed to donors to help him change Congress.
"The problem is not the Republican Party per se," he said. "The problem is this particular group right now that has kind of gone off the rails."
The trip comes as Obama is dealing with a series of high-profile tests of his presidency, from Eastern Europe to the Middle East to the Southern U.S. border. The downing of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine last week, the eruption of war in Gaza between Israelis and Palestinians, and the humanitarian crisis caused by the influx of Central American minors seeking to cross the border has put a strain on the White House.
Even on the road, the troubles abroad were not far from the president. While aboard Air Force One in route to Seattle he placed a call to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to discuss evidence that Russia continues to send weapons and fighters into Ukraine. The Malaysian airline flight originated in Amsterdam, and many of the deaths were Dutch citizens.
Also, as he pulled up to his first event in a wealthy neighborhood on Lake Washington, Obama was met by about two dozen demonstrators protesting Israel's actions in Gaza and chanting "free, free Palestine" and "killing children is a crime."
Obama said the foreign crises had contributed to the public's anxiety.
"Part of people's concern is just the sense that around the world the old order isn't holding and we're not quite yet where we need to be based on the new order," he said.
On the fundraising trail Obama remains a potent draw among the Democratic Party's wealthy donors, who pay up to $32,400 to be in intimate settings with the president.