This year has been one of the worst wildfire seasons ever. This problem is especially acute in the Western states. The best way to fight these fires is to prevent them from happening in the first place. That means starving the fires of fuel. There is no real high-tech option here. So a number of states are going totally low-tech and hiring herds of goats to eat away excess plant life.
Image via Earther
The sight of goats grazing away in the countryside is far more pleasant than that of bulldozers tearing up the landscape. Goats also don't belch noxious clouds of diesel fumes. And all of the waste created by the goats goes back to nourish the soil. With less vegetation there is to burn the harder it is for fires to take hold and go wild.
Image via Earther
In the Pacific Northwest a company called Healing Hooves maintains a large herd of about 250 goats that they hire out to clear vegetation. Their goats work 24/7 an acre at a time for the clients. The goat owners provide troughs so that the goats also have plenty of water on the job. They take rest as they choose and just do what comes naturally to them. It becomes a symbiotic sort of relationship with humans.
In Colorado South Metro Fire Rescue employed a herd of 300 goats to munch their way through the weeds and dry brush that threatens the state every year. The goats get to just do what goats do and that saves humans the labor-intensive project of getting out the chainsaws and hauling away the excess. Even a baby goat just a few days old was helping out and learning the ropes of the "family business." Five communities in the Denver-metro area received goat service this summer.
Image via CBS Denver
California is hit by approximately 6,000 wildfires every year and cause many millions of dollars in damage. Over the past 30 years the number of fires has quadrupled as more and more himans have moved into fire-prone areas. During the six-month fire season goats belonging to Brea McGrew can be found snacking their way through the hills above Oakland and Berkeley, the coastal slopes of Monterey, and among the beachfront mansions in Malibu. McGrew's herd numbers in the thousands.
Image via Smithsonian.com
Over the past 30 years it has been noted that fires are more easily contained in areas where goats have been allowed to browse. The beasts actually prefer the bushes and scrub that tend to lead fire into the trees. They would rather eat that than tender green grass which makes goats the perfect animals for the job. A side benefit of the goats is that they uncover areas well enough that trash and junk can be located and trucked out of these areas.
There are three factors that contribute to the occurrence of wildfires -- fuel, topography, and weather. There is little we can do about the topography (landscape), and nothing at all we can do about the weather. When it comes to the fuel that is where we have an ace up our sleeve. We can control the amount of fuel available to fires, especially with the help of goats.