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Senate OKs funding for National Guard wildfire training


As wildfires continue to blaze across Oregon, Sen. Jeff Merkley, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and colleague Ron Wyden announced that the Defense Department’s 2019 appropriations bill, which passed the Senate Thursday, includes $7 million to train National Guard members to fight wildfires.

“I’ve met with the people on the front lines of these serious wildfires, and they say the hundreds of National Guard members have been a huge help as they battle growing blazes,” Merkley said. “After last year’s shortages of trained firefighters put a huge squeeze on fire suppression efforts exactly when they are most needed, we knew we could not let that happen again.

“The men and women of our National Guard are brave, disciplined, and committed to protecting our communities, and this year’s funding for National Guard training had tremendously positive results. That’s why I’m so pleased that we’ve got this funding lined up again for next year.”

“Oregonians deserve a quick and effective response to the wildfires threatening homes and businesses while choking large parts of our state with smoke,” Wyden said. “National Guard members regularly and courageously answer the call when it comes to emergency response, and I am glad to have worked with Senator Merkley to ensure they are trained to fight wildfires throughout Oregon.”

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. To date, Oregon has received $1 million to train and deploy 500 National Guard members.

The next step for the bill is to be merged with a counterpart bill from the U.S. House of Representatives, in order to be passed by both houses and signed into law.

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