Merkley Statement on Oregon Wildfires

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley reacted to the fires burning across Oregon, and announced plans to push to include emergency funding for wildfires in the disaster bill that is expected to move through Congress this month:

“All across our state we are experiencing devastating wildfires. I’m praying for the affected communities, and for the brave men and women who are out there on the front lines fighting these fires.

“I thank Gov. Kate Brown and the long list of local officials, firefighters and volunteers — from the south Oregon Coast to the Columbia River Gorge — who are working on comprehensive emergency responses. I know there is a lot of fear and uncertainty right now, and that their mobilization has provided some reassurance for Oregonians.

“In Washington, D.C., I’m doing everything I can to make sure Oregon communities have the resources and manpower they need to fight these fires now, and to recover after they’re extinguished. There’s a disaster bill coming to the Senate, and I’ll do everything I can to ensure that the disaster hitting Oregon is addressed in that legislation. We need to make sure there are adequate resources to fight the fires today, and to help communities recover tomorrow. 

“The fires burning today reinforce how important it is to get a long-term fix that would fund fighting huge wildfires the way that we fund other natural disasters, instead of raiding next year’s fire prevention. There shouldn’t be a ‘wrong kind’ of disaster. When our communities are hit hard, we should help them respond and recover.

“Many of us are frustrated with current forest management practices. I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to find collaborative solutions and funding to return our forests to health.

“And as the fire season gets longer, we also need to work with the Forest Service to figure out how to ensure we have crews in place to fight fires through the entire season — not just the summer months. Right now, a big challenge is that many of our seasonal firefighters go back to school at the end of August. That puts a huge crunch on the crews that are remaining. Unfortunately, as we’re seeing that now, the new, longer fire season can be just as intense in the early fall as in July and August.

“This is a scary time for Oregon. Our air is choked with wildfire smoke; our friends and neighbors are on the front lines fighting fires; our communities are being threatened. I will do everything I can to support Oregonians and make our forests more resilient in the future.”