Senate Passes Wyden, Merkley Provision in Defense Bill to Encourage National Guard to Train Members to Fight Wildfires

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today announced they successfully included legislation to help train additional members of the National Guard to fight wildfires in a defense bill the Senate passed this week.

The senators worked to include their legislation, which facilitates training of more National Guard members for wildfire response, in a bill members from both Houses of Congress negotiated. The provision is especially important in states like Oregon, hard-hit by this year’s record-breaking wildfire season, where wildfires have become so wide spread they are straining the state and U.S. Forest Service’s abilities to cover all active fires. 

“Battling devastating wildfires across the West year after year takes everything we’ve got and more,” Wyden said. “I’m proud to have included legislation in the defense bill deal that will encourage the military to train more Guard members on how to protect people, homes and businesses on the front lines of these deadly infernos.”

“We know already that the men and women of the National Guard are brave, disciplined, and committed to protecting our communities,” Merkley said. “Using those existing talents to supplement fire suppression efforts during bad fire seasons just makes sense. I’m pleased that we will be able to get National Guard servicemembers trained up early, and put more boots on the ground fighting these huge fires more quickly.”

In September, their amendment was included in the Senate’s version of the defense bill, which authorizes national defense programs for the next fiscal year. Wyden and Merkley opposed the overall bill due to increases in military spending, both on and off budget, with little accountability.

The conferenced bill passed the Senate this week by a voice vote and now goes to the president for signature.