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Californians deploy goats to help prevent wildfires

'We're trying to be practical and strategic'

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Californians are using every resource available to prevent wildfires, given the state's vulnerability to destructive and deadly blazes. Clearing out vegetation that could fuel the flames is a big part of that effort, so land managers have been soliciting help from experts: goats.

What are the details?

Municipalities, firefighters, and groundskeepers across the state are increasingly deploying goat herds to mow down brush, clearing out would-be kindling in a cost-efficient method.

The Ventura County Fire Department has used the furry weed whackers for five years. Capt. Ken VanWig told Bloomberg, "They'll eat until we like the way the landscape looks, and then we move them to another area. They're very effective."

Last week, the southern city of Lemon Grove hired 200 goats for "clearing heavy brush to minimize fire danger and help create defensible space for homes," East County Magazine reported.

Eight hours north of there, the city of San Rafael is using goats as part of their vegetation management, trimming along roads to improve access for fire engines and creating "fuel breaks" to help stop flames from spreading, according to the Marin Independent Journal.

Fire Inspector Marshal Nau said of their practices, "We're trying to be practical and strategic."

Lake County News reported that the new owners of the historic Lucerne Hotel property recently rented goats from a company called the Gonzalez Brush Busters, for the purpose of manicuring the grounds and clearing out weeds ahead of fire season.

Goats are also used for fire prevention methods in Laguna Beach, West Sacramento, and other communities throughout California.

Anything else?

The cost of goat-grazing runs about $800 to $3,000 per acre, depending on accessibility, plot size, and water sources, according to San Rafael Fire Department emergency manager Quinn Gardner.

After last year's deadly fires, people are scrambling for the service. George Gonzales ā€” who started renting out goats for brush-clearing 15 years ago ā€” told USA Today he's so swamped right now he's turning away business, telling the outlet, "I can't take any more work."

One last thing…
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