WASHINGTON, D.C.— Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Greg Walden, Kurt Schrader and Suzanne Bonamici, today pushed the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and the Interior to immediately make urgently needed fire crew chiefs available to assist in the deployment of National Guard service members in Oregon to fight raging wildfires.
“Given the severity and speed at which fires are spreading across the state, we must respond swiftly. Fortunately, the National Guard is prepared to train and deploy additional units, but only once they have the crew chiefs needed. We thank you in advance for your assistance in meeting this crisis by providing the additional fire crew chiefs needed to deploy our National Guard members and contain these wildfires,” the lawmakers wrote to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.
The fires, which exploded after extreme wind conditions on September 7, have forced 500,000 Oregonians under level one, two or three evacuation orders. It is unclear when it will be safe for the 40,000 Oregonians who have evacuated their homes and communities for safety will be able to return—leaving many wondering about the status of their missing loved ones, homes, and belongings.
Earlier this week, Governor Kate Brown announced her intention to train two additional teams of National Guard service members for deployment to fight the wildfires. When the National Guard Bureau initially indicated that it could not provide the financial resources necessary for the additional training, Senator Merkley intervened and prompted the National Guard Bureau to find additional resources within the training program to allow two firefighting teams to be trained and deployed. Securing the crew chiefs is now the final major obstacle remaining in getting these additional crews deployed.
The full text of the lawmakers’ letter is available here and follows below.