The partial government shutdown is elevating the threat of wildfires in the West. That’s the contention of a dozen Democratic U.S. senators, including Oregon’s Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and Washington’s Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.
Typically, federal agencies hire and train firefighters during the winter months so they are ready for wildfire season when it hits in the summer. Prevention work, like setting prescribed fire to remove dense undergrowth in forests, also begins in the winter and continues through spring.
In a letter sent Monday to President Donald Trump, the senators wrote that it’s time to reopen government so forestry professionals and firefighters can continue forest restoration work and training.
"The failure to reopen the government puts peoples’ lives at risk by undermining their ability to respond to wildfires and will only serve to delay critical forest restoration and safety projects," they wrote.
The shutdown has dragged into its 24th day, extending its record as the longest in U.S. government history.