October 22, 2020

Wyden, Leahy, Schumer, Merkley Ask National Guard for Wildfire Readiness Assessment

Senators praise Guard response to 2020 wildfires, say assessment will help ensure Guard has the firefighting resources it needs

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., today led colleagues in asking the National Guard for a report on its readiness to help states prepare, fight and recover from wildfires.

In a letter to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Daniel R. Hokanson, the senators wrote, “As devastating fires of historic proportion continue to ravage the United States, we ask you to provide us an assessment of the National Guard’s ability to prepare for, respond to, and help state firefighting forces recover from wildfires. A frank estimation will help Congress address any gaps and use every resource available to respond to this year’s fires. It will also help us better resource and equip the Guard for a future in which human-driven climate change will make fire seasons increasingly severe and destructive."

“We commend all the heroic men and women of the National Guard who have been responding to raging wildfires as part of a federal, state, and local effort,” the senators wrote. “With a more complete understanding of the Guard’s ability to respond, we can ensure proper resourcing and will be better able to keep our Guard members always ready and always there.”

The senators requested the National Guard provide the following information in response to today’s letter:

  • The availability of appropriately trained personnel and equipment for firefighting-related needs;
  • An accounting of the capacity available through Emergency Management Assistance Compacts and whether expanding them may provide additional opportunities or wildfire capacity; and
  • Any National Guard Bureau plans or constructs developed with governors for coordinated regional response.

Wyden, Leahy, Schumer and Merkley were joined by U.S. Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Maria Cantwell D-Wash.

A copy of today’s letter is available here.