Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., announced Thursday that the Senate Appropriations Committee included $8.5 million in the Department of Defense appropriations bill to train National Guard members to fight wildfires.
The funding is a $1.5 million increase over last year and the previous year, when Merkley first secured the additional resources to fight wildfires across the West. The bill passed out of committee Thursday.
“You can’t fight a fire without firefighters—and as we saw during previous years’ devastating fire seasons, shortages of trained firefighters can put a huge squeeze on fire suppression efforts at the very moment when they are most needed,” Merkley said in a news release.
“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, and with additional funding, Oregonians and communities across the West will be safer during fire season.”
Between fiscal years 2018 and 2020, Merkley has secured $22.5 million for training National Guard members to combat wildfires, according to his office. In Oregon, the funding this past fire season allowed training for 355 members to assist with wildfire fighting.
The next step for the bill is a full Senate vote, eventually merging with a counterpart bill from the House in order to be passed by both houses and signed into law.