Cantwell, Bipartisan Colleagues Push to Include Support for National Guard Firefighting Efforts in Upcoming Funding Bill

In letter, Cantwell, colleagues call for resources and training for National Guard to address increasingly severe wildfire season. Cantwell also advocated for additional funding to address wildfires in Energy and Natural Resources infrastructure package.

WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined a bipartisan group of senators to push the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense to include robust funding in their Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations bill for the National Guard to aid wildland firefighting efforts in communities across western states, which are already facing severe drought, record temperatures, and wildfires.

There are currently more than 12,200 firefighters and support personnel—including members of the National Guard—battling 59 major wildfires in Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Alaska, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Montana, and Minnesota.

“In 2020, the West experienced severe drought, which resulted in some of the driest conditions on record. More than 50,000 fires burned 10 million acres with fires lasting well into the fall, destroying homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure. Throughout the summer and fall, National Guard members proved to be pivotal firefighting forces across the West,” the lawmakers wrote.

“As the country struggles to adapt to longer and more severe wildfire seasons, additional resources to train members of the National Guard is critical. Guard members must have the appropriate training and equipment to fulfill their missions and this funding is critical to ensure they are properly prepared,” the lawmakers continued.

In addition to Cantwell, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), James Risch (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Senator Cantwell has long championed funding and programs to prevent, combat and respond to wildfires. In the energy and natural resources infrastructure package approved today by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Senator Cantwell supported additional funding to address the growing risk of devastating wildfires.

In late 2020 and early 2021, Cantwell repeatedly called for an official disaster declaration to allow communities in Washington to receive disaster relief from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to help recover from the devastating wildfire season in 2020. Last October, Cantwell also joined her senate colleagues in sending a letter to the National Guard Bureau requesting a report on its readiness to help states prevent and fight wildfires, address current needs, and utilize all available resources in response to longer, more extreme wildfire seasons. In September 2020, Senator Cantwell introduced legislation to support pre-fire season controlled burns.

Full text of the letter is available HERE.