As Firefighters Fight Luna Fire, Udall, Heinrich Request National Guard Wildfire Readiness Assessment

Senators praise Guard response to 2020 wildfires, call for assessment to ensure proper firefighting resources

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined a group of 12 senators in a letter to Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Daniel R. Hokanson requesting an assessment of the  National Guard’s current firefighting capabilities to better coordinate resources with state and local efforts. The senators requested that the National Guard provide an assessment of trained personnel and equipment availability and work to develop coordinated regional planning with governors.

New Mexico’s National Guard and Air National Guard have been critical in providing lifesaving community support during the COVID-19 pandemic and wildfire season. Udall and Heinrich joined the request for further coordinated assessment as state firefighters are battling the Luna Fire in Carson National Forest and as climate change is exacerbating the damage of fire season across the country.

“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,” the senators wrote. “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 urge you to be candid both about any current challenges and any gaps you think will emerge as increasingly destructive wildfire seasons put greater demands on the National Guard,” the senators concluded. “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. 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 full text of the senator’s letter can be found here and below:

General Daniel R. Hokanson

Chief of the National Guard Bureau 1636 Defense Pentagon

Arlington, VA 20301-1636

Dear General Hokanson:

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.

Fighting fires is a complex mission that involves state, local, and federal officials and many different agencies. National Guard members who assist may be operating under Title 10, Title 32, State Active Duty, or outside of their state pursuant to an Emergency Management Assistance Compact between governors. Guard members must have the appropriate training, personnel numbers, and equipment needed to fulfill their missions, regardless of their status, because Americans are counting on them to succeed in the moment.

To that end we ask that you provide us your assessment of the current state of the National Guard’s ability to prepare for wildfires, help respond to them, and aid in the recovery. Please include the following:

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

We urge you to be candid both about any current challenges and any gaps you think will emerge as increasingly destructive wildfire seasons put greater demands on the National Guard.

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. 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.