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Brush-Munching Goats Help Firefighters Get Jump on Calif. Wildfire Season

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Brush-munching goats are helping California firefighteres get a jump on the wildfire season. Kris Sanchez reports. (Published Wednesday, May 28, 2014)

    Brush-munching goats are helping California firefighters get a jump on the wildfire season.

    Several Bay Area communities are hiring the goats to clear grass that cropped up late this spring.

    "No matter how many goats you had this time of year, you could put them to work," said Mike Canaday of California Grazing.

    All of Canaday's 2,500 goats are currently at work clearing fuel for fire.

    In San Carlos, goats are eating so-called ladder fuels -- dry grass and brush that help a fire jump from the canyon to the homes above.

    Canaday said in most years the goats would be done munching the brush by June. California's severe drought prompted the grass to grow late.

    "We have the same amount of work to do and less time," he said. "And you can't make the goat go any faster. A goat does what a goat does."

    Canaday also said 450 goats can clear about an acre a day -- more if the animals enjoy what they're eating.

    Calfire reports fuels are 40 percent drier than they were a month ago, and now rival the conditions of the historic wildfire season of the 1970s.

    Scott Jalbert,  a Calfire unit chief for crews in San Mateo and Santa Cruz, is considering using goats.

    "It's a great tool to use out there," Jalbert said. "The goats are very efficient."