Merkley, Wyden Announce $6.5 Million in Federal Funding to Support Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Capabilities in Southwest Oregon

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced today that the Southwest Oregon Regional/Coos County Airport District will receive $6.5 million in federal funding to construct a 12,863-square-foot aircraft rescue and firefighting building.

“As our communities continue fighting to keep the lights on while slowing the spread of the coronavirus, it’s critical that we focus on doing everything we can to build a strong foundation for a prosperous and safe future,” said Merkley. “This funding will put Oregonians to work building valuable infrastructure that helps us prepare for future wildfire seasons, so we can keep our communities safe, this year and into the future.”

“The serious threat that wildfires pose to Oregonians’ lives and property places a premium on investments that improve the capability to fight these blazes,” Wyden said. “I am gratified that Coos County and Southwest Oregon have earned these federal resources to build their communities’ capacity for firefighting and air rescue.”

The Coos County Airport District has been looking for the award every day, and we are grateful to be receiving this now, so we can begin constructing the project,” said Coos County Airport District Executive Director Theresa Cook. “It is designed, bids have been received, and construction will start immediately. It is a great boost to our community during these challenging times. And is an important facility to ensure the airport users have the best safety and response measures in place.”

Today’s grant award follows Merkley and Wyden’s March announcement that the U.S. Forest Service would bring on five additional airtankers for use when needed to battle wildfires in Oregon—bringing the total number of airtankers available through the agency, under a variety of contracting options, to 35. Merkley and Wyden also pushed the U.S. Forest Service in April to detail their plans to keep communities and firefighters safe in light of additional challenges to traditional firefighting practices posed by the ongoing coronavirus crisis.