WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Ron Wyden today announced that the Department of Defense appropriations bill includes $7 million to train National Guard members to fight wildfires. The bill passed out of committee today.
“You can’t fight a fire without firefighters — and as we saw during last year’s devastating fire season, shortages of trained firefighters can put a huge squeeze on fire suppression efforts at the very moment when they are most needed,” Merkley said. “We know that the men and women of our National Guard are brave, disciplined, and committed to protecting our communities. Getting them trained up early will mean more people fighting these huge fires more quickly.”
“In Oregon and across the West, wildfires are the natural disasters that threaten our communities,” Wyden said. “There’s no doubt that getting more firefighters on the front lines to combat these blazes will save lives and homes. Sen. Merkley and I have been proud to keep working to allow more of the brave men and women of the National Guard to get specialized training to protect our communities from wildfires.”
“I appreciate Sen. Merkley’s ongoing focus on confronting wildfires, as well as his leadership that secured additional funding so we can get more boots on the ground and in the air to help fight fires and protect Oregon communities,” Governor Kate Brown said. “Worsening wildfire and drought conditions continue threaten the health of Oregonians, our communities and economy, and state and local agencies have been increasingly challenged to respond with limited resources.”
“Pre-training gets us out on the fire lines quicker to assist our firefighters and the citizens of Oregon whenever our help is needed,” said Maj. Stephen Bomar, Public Affairs Officer with the Oregon National Guard.
Merkley and Wyden last fall secured both authorization in the 2018 defense bill and $7 million in the 2018 spending bill to provide states like Oregon the firefighting resources they need to respond to catastrophic wildfires. Oregon’s share of the funding will train at least 375 members. Training for Oregon National Guard members begins July 9.
The next step for the bill is a full Senate vote, and eventually merging with a counterpart bill from the U.S. House of Representatives in order to be passed by both houses and signed into law.