June 09, 2020

Wyden Gives Forest Service a Week to Explain Agency Actions to Protect Firefighters and Communities Amid Wildfire Season and COVID-19

Oregon senator's request follows agency official's admission that the Forest Service should be doing more

Washington, D.C. – Following a U.S. Forest Service official's admission today that the agency could do more to protect the safety and well-being of firefighters and communities from COVID-19 during this wildfire season, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., demanded the agency provide its safety plan in writing within a week.

During a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing, Wyden pressed the agency on the lack of coordination with on-the-ground officials: "I was recently briefed in Oregon by local partners, and they didn't give me any indication that there is direct on-the-ground coordination between D.C. health and emergency services programs and the front lines of Oregon forestry." 

Hearing witness John Phipps, Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry of the U.S. Forest Service, admitted the interagency needs to do something more when Wyden asked, "What specifically is the Forest Service going to do to really address these issues – these issues of testing and protections for the firefighters and rural communities using the CDC and FEMA, and do it with people on-the-ground quickly?"

A video of the full exchange can be found here.