Medford, Ore. — Local firefighters may have extra help this fire season. Oregon’s senators helped secure millions in funding to train members of the Air National Guard to fight wildfires.
Now that the funding is good to go, the National Guard just needs the training.
“I’m glad to report we won on both battles. There’s $7 million to train the National Guard,” said Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
Seven million dollars… To put more people on the fire lines this summer. Now that oregon’s senators have secured the money. They’re urging the director of air national guard to take action, and fast.
“Now we’re writing a letter to the others saying – please, air national guard, get those funds out to our state national guard so that we can really get people trained up and ready for the coming fire season.”
The letter written by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley lists the details of one of the quote, ‘worst, and expensive fire seasons on record.’
“We’re not far away from what we saw last year from the possibility of multiple fires in the state a few weeks here. It’s important to move quickly,” Senator Merkley said.
In 2017, nearly 71,500 fires burned 10,000,000 acres across the country. In Oregon, 2,049 fires burned 714,520 acres.
In the letter, the senators wrote:
“You cannot fight a fire without firefighters and throughout last year’s devastating fire season, shortages of trained firefighters severely hampered fire suppression efforts at the very moment when they were most critical.
We know already that the men and women of the national guard are brave, disciplined, and committed to protecting our communities.
Training our National Guard service members now will mean a quicker and more effective response to severe wildfires.
The training process will take time and fire season is rapidly approaching, making the quick disbursement of this funding all the more critical.”
“Training is relatively inexpensive. So a small amount of training dollars can go a long ways in having our national guard ready to assist our other fire teams I think it’s a very, very good idea and a very important development,” Senator Merkley said.
Senator Merkley said it’s not yet known how many firefighters the additional funding can pay for. However, if things progress in a timely manner, firefighters have enough time to get trained by this season.