June 8, 2022 3:00 a.m.
On Tuesday, Senator Ron Wyden asked the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture about the agencies plans to make sure Oregon is equipped with the firefighting workforce and funding it needs to meet the demands of another potentially catastrophic wildfire season.
A release said Wyden’s questions came ahead of this Thursday’s U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the Forest Service budget. Wyden – a senior committee member – plans to raise these issues.
Wyden said “Oregon is still struggling to rebuild after two, back-to-back horrific fire seasons…Another fire season like this would further devastate our communities as well as our firefighters, who risk lives and tear themselves away from their homes every summer to protect Oregon’s treasured landscapes”. This was written in Wyden’s letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Wyden said he has heard in past years that agencies needed resources – in terms of funding and workforce – to better position and prepare for the wildfire season. Wyden said, “With the passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November of 2021, your departments received this much-needed support. Now, more than six months after being given this new flexibility, we are past time for action”.
Wyden also urged the agencies “to bring wildland firefighters the pay rates, career development, and health care, especially mental health, support they deserve”.
Wyden said to make sure Oregon’s needs are met for this year’s wildfire season, he asked for answers to a number of questions. A copy of the full letter is linked: https://www.wyden.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/6.7.22%20Final%20Wildfire%20Letter%20to%20DOI%20and%20USDA.pdf