Wyden, Merkley Secure Their Provision in Defense Bill to Train National Guard Members to Fight Wildfires

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley tonight secured their provision in the Senate’s defense bill that would provide federal funding to train members of the National Guard to fight wildfires. 

The Wyden-Merkley amendment would authorize federal funding to states to train their Guard members for wildfire response. It would give first preference to states with the most federal forest lands – states that have been hard-hit by this year’s record-breaking wildfire season. They successfully included their amendment in a bill the Senate passed tonight that would fund national defense programs for the next fiscal year.

“Wildfires are threatening more homes and communities every year, making it essential to get more firefighters on the front lines combating these catastrophic blazes,” Wyden said. “Sen. Merkley and I today secured a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act to train more of the brave men and women of the National Guard to protect our communities against the destruction of these natural disasters.”

“You can’t fight a fire without firefighters – and as we’ve seen during this devastating fire season, shortages of trained firefighters can put a huge squeeze on fire suppression efforts at the very moment when they are most critical,” said Merkley. “We know already that the men and women of the National Guard are brave, disciplined, and committed to protecting our communities. I’m pleased that the entire Senate has recognized that getting our National Guard servicemembers trained up early will mean more people fighting these huge fires more quickly.” 

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., also cosponsored the amendment.

Wyden and Merkley both voted against the bill over unrelated provisions.