City Threatened with Destruction by Wildfire Calls a Farmer

What began in 2014 as an alternative to lawn mowers has become a strategy that helped West Sacramento, California, avoid damage from a recent wildfire.

The answer was not high technology, but a flock of hungry goats.

“Goats are really hard workers — they’ll eat anything down to four inches,” Paul Hosley, a spokesman for the city, said, according to The Washington Post.

The goats’ work paid off in late May when a 10-acre wildfire heading toward a condominium complex in West Sacramento died before the flames could reach any buildings.

The fire stopped because it hit what is known as a firebreak, an area without the vegetation needed to keep the flames going. Weeks before, the area was the grazing spot for 400 rented goats that chewed until they were full and the spot was empty.

“It almost looks like a moonscape after they go through,” Hosley said. “They’re good for the environment, and everyone around here loves them.”

“They can get into places where mowers can’t go, they eat all day without complaining, and the fertilizer is free of charge.”

Goat labor is not cheap. The city paid $150,000 to hire a floppy-eared herd from Western Grazers, also known as Blue Tent Farms.

The goats showed up in March and again in May to eat everything in sight while bringing out hordes of city-dwellers to watch the show. The goats made the two runs around West Sacramento to eat underbrush ahead of the summer wildfire season.

“They’re amazing — they’ll eat anything,” Hosley said, per the Post. “Prickly foxtails, poisonous weeds, tall grass, even the leaves of trees. They’ll stand on their hind legs to reach them.”

The saga began in 2014 when West Sacramento hired Debbie Olympias, owner of KD Goat Ranch, according to KXJZ-FM.

The goal was to avoid mowing, but Olympias noted at the time that the goats paid an added dividend.

“This way it’s more like going in and removing the grasses and brush instead of mowing it and leaving a bunch of fuel lying on the ground,” she said then, per KXJZ.

West Sacramento isn’t the only place where goats are employed to munch a protective zone around hones.

Lani Malmberg of Colorado said she and her son Donny Benz have 1,200 goats and have made it to 17 states to either create firebreaks or remove brush, according to the Post.

Malmberg said goats are the perfect workers.

“They’re intelligent beings, making decisions about where they put their feet. They’re not going to step on a bird’s nest. And they require very little water compared to everything else — including a group of firemen,” she said.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.