U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon lead a group of lawmakers requesting wildfire relief funding in the next coronavirus package currently being debated in Congress.

“Entire communities in Oregon and across the West were leveled to ash in the wake of this year’s wildfire season–lives lost and homes and small businesses destroyed, and all on top of a life-threatening global pandemic,” Wyden said. “With the blow 2020 delivered to these communities, Congress has a responsibility to provide for their recovery and invest in preventing future devastation.”

Joined by a number of other Democratic lawmakers, Wyden and Merkley’s letter calls for more economic relief to small cities and towns that did not directly benefit from the original CARES Act, with the intent of keeping firefighters and other first responders on the payroll.

The letter also calls for investments in fire risk mitigation, such as the establishment of a “21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps” to work on forest management; federal support for FEMA grants; late-season interagency hotshot crews; higher pay and benefits for federal firefighters; and more funding for fire recovery efforts in communities impacted by the recent wildfires.

“In September, I drove over 600 miles across our state to meet with Oregonians who suffered tremendous loss, and to get an up close look at the damage from this year’s unprecedented wildfires,” said Merkley. “What I saw and heard was heartbreaking — reports of lives lost, homes destroyed, and entire towns leveled. As we continue down the long road to recovery, I’m going to keep doing everything I can to help our communities get back on their feet, and to reduce the risk of this type of massive destruction from ever happening again.”