Merkley shares concerns on wildland firefighter shortage

EUGENE, Ore. – As another wildfire season draws closer, fire agencies are reporting a shortage of wildland firefighters.

This, coupled with lingering drought conditions, puts the Northwest in position for yet another risky season.

We spoke with Senator Jeff Merkley about this shortage in staffing.

 Merkley shared his concern of how one big fire can draw all the available talent from several states, leaving states vulnerable if other large fires occur.

“I’ve really been pushing for our National Guard to be trained, to be able to help with firefighting, and for the federal funds to be sufficient and to create more year-round crews,” Merkley said, “so that crews that are fighting fires during fire season then do forest management, thinning, making the forest more resilient when they’re not fighting fires.”

The senator, along with other Oregon legislators, is pushing for a renewed commitment to the Western Oregon Operating Plan.

The plan governs the Bureau of Land Management’s fire response in the western Oregon.

According to Merkley, BLM is looking to reduce the acreage it covers.