Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley has announced that the Senate Appropriations Committee included $8.5 million in the Department of Defense appropriations bill to train National Guard members to fight wildfires.

A release from Merkley said the funding is a $1.5 million increase over the last two years, when Merkley first secured the additional resources to fight wildfires across the west. The bill passed out of committee late last week.

Merkley said as seen during previous year’s devastating fire seasons, shortages of trained firefighters can “put a huge squeeze on fire suppression efforts at the very moment they are most needed”. He said getting Guard members trained will mean more people fighting fires more quickly and with the additional funding, “Oregonians and communities across the west will be safer during fire season”.

The release said between fiscal years 2018 and 2020, Merkley has secured $22.5 million for training National Guard members to combat fires. In Oregon, the funding this past fire season allowed training for 355 members to assist with wildfire fighting.

The next step for the legislation is a full Senate vote, eventually merging with a counterpart bill from the House in order to be passed by both chambers and eventually signed into law.