Hungry Goats Are on the Front Lines of Wildfire Prevention in SoCal - NBC New York
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Hungry Goats Are on the Front Lines of Wildfire Prevention in SoCal

Using goats as a method for reducing potential fire hazard is gaining popularity after winter's heavy rain.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Firefighting Goats

    Firefighters call on the goat brigade to take a bite out of California wildfire prevention. (Published Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019)

    For Southern California, using grazing goats is a solution spreading like wildfire.

    The County of Los Angeles Fire Department's Forestry Division is using goats as part of their fire hazard reduction project, by way of a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency - and they are employing these grass-munchers now, more than ever before.

    Non-native grasses flourished in Southern California, during the winter's soaking rains.

    "In a year like this year we expect to use them quite a bit," said Asst. Fire Chief J Lopez, from the forestry division. "When we had five years of drought the growth out there isn't as much when you have a few inches of rain, compared to a year like this year." 

    Dubbed "LA's Evil Plants" by the National Park Service because of their tendency to dry out quickly, these invasive grasses pose a greater risk of becoming fuel for spreading fires. 

    The Chino Unified School District also uses goats on many of their properties. 

    "For us as a school district, it's important to do everything we can to be green," said Martin Silveira, director of maintenance operations. "We use the goats because we're not burning diesel fuel. We're trying to be ecologically friendly here."

    And while the goats offer a greener solution than bulldozers and machines traditionally used to clear brush, they also offer a great cost benefit. On average, it takes about one month for 10 goats to clear an acre of property, and costs around $1 per goat, per day. The dollar amount will vary slightly depending on the time of year, the geographic location, and several other factors.

    The goats can also climb down the sides of steep hills and areas that are hard for machines to get to, or dangerous for people to work in. For this reason, the fire division recently employed over 300 goats to graze the hills in east Malibu.

    With  heavy rainfalls, and the increase in grass growth, local goat vendors are in popular demand across SoCal, and many even have waiting lists. Asst. Chief Lopez said anyone interested in this service must ensure to hire a qualified vendor trained in fire prevention, because if left too long, the goats will eat everything - including native species - which could create further problems. You can find a list of recommended vendors here.