Over 1,000 goats needed to clear dry brush from California to help prevent wildfires

PHOTO: Goats graze on a hillside in Laguna Beach, Calif., on Oct. 20, 2005.PlayBloomberg via Getty Images, FILE
WATCH 1,050 goats clear dry brush from fire-prone hillside in California

There a number of ways to prevent wildfires, but for the city of Laguna Beach, California, fire officials used a unique method, in fact,1,000 of them.

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As of Friday, more than 1,000 goats were chewing their way through dry weeds and grass, vegetation that Laguna Beach’s Fire Marshall, James Brown is calling “fuel” for fire. Best suited for the geography and topography of the city due to their ability to maneuver steep and rocky slopes, goats and herders from Peru have cleared 80% of this year’s 250-acre goal.

Laguna Beach’s goat program began in 1992, a year after the city of Oakland tested its own goat program in response to the Oakland-Berkley fire of 1991. Brown told ABC News that with 250 goats, the Laguna Beach fire officials moved forward with the program after it proved extremely effective during the fire season.

This is largest group of goats they’ve had in the history of the program. Officials even added a third herd to cover more acres, Brown told ABC News.

“The Laguna Beach residents appreciate what the goats do to protect their community, and are very supportive of our program," Brown said. "They have also been very supportive of the herders who tend to the goats, and welcome the herders each year when they come through the neighborhood.”

PHOTO: Goats chomp on vegetation behind homes along Del Mar Avenue in the hills above Laguna Beach in Calif., on July 18, 2016. Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images, File
Goats chomp on vegetation behind homes along Del Mar Avenue in the hills above Laguna Beach in Calif., on July 18, 2016.

This year, Laguna Beach experienced a wet season prompting a super bloom. Brown says while a super bloom may seem great, the vast growth becomes fuel for a fire when it dries out.

This is where the goats come in.

The goats are just one of five prongs of fire-prevention methods used by the city. Other prongs include hands crew, weed abatement, complaint-based removal and enforcing building development requirements for fire safety landscaping.

“The City of Laguna Beach has been using goats for fuel modification for over 25 years, and they have proven very effective at reducing the dead vegetation fuel load and helping to protect our City," Brown said. "They have also been very cost-effective, and typically are 10% or less per acre of what a hand crew charges.”

Brown says he looks forward to expanding the department’s fuel modification program over the next 10 years with the goal to cover the entire perimeter of Laguna Beach.