Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today pressed federal land managers on Oregon’s preparedness needs for the 2021 wildfire season as intense drought conditions persist and are expected to worsen in the state.
“As you are well aware, the 2020 Oregon wildfire season was one of the most destructive seasons on record; destroying thousands of homes, burning over one million acres, and straining communities already battling a historic pandemic. Though many Oregonians are still recovering and rebuilding after last season’s wildfires, the 2021 fire season in Oregon has already begun,” Wyden and Merkley wrote in a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Wyden and Merkley asked the agencies to: 1) provide additional investments in aviation and other 21st century wildland firefighting technologies like drones and helicopters; 2) continue coordination with state and local fire response; and 3) ensure a thorough assessment of firefighting capacity to align resource availability with resource needs.
“In 2020 there was increased investment in planes to put out fires from above, and it is imperative to continue prioritization of the deployment of aviation and other technologies to keep firefighters safe. We recognize the importance of a strategic and integrated approach to tackle wildfire, and urge your continued partnerships and coordination with state and local firefighting response units. We also acknowledge the capacity challenge federal agencies face. As fire season lasts longer and longer and as fires become more severe, retaining qualified firefighting staff will be challenging. We urge a thoughtful and intentional analysis of existing wildland firefighting capacity, so that resources are prioritized accordingly.”