California Hires Goats to Eat Dry Brush and Prevent Forest Fires

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Fire departments in California are hard at work on preventing as many wildfires possible, and they’ve turned to an unlikely source for help: goats.

Firefighters at the Ventura County Fire Department released hundreds of goats north of Los Angeles this month. Famously, goats will eat just about anything, which, while it can sometimes be troublesome, is a very helpful trait in this case. The goats go wander about and eat the dry brush that could otherwise become fuel for future fires.

Where humans see a fire hazard, goats see a delicious buffet. It’s a win/win situation.

The fire department has been using goats for this purpose for about five years, and other departments in California are doing the same.

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“They’ll eat until we like the way the landscape looks, and then we move them to another area,” Captain Ken VanWig explained to Bloomberg. “They’re very effective.”

Initiatives like this are especially significant now. In November, California experienced its most deadly and destructive wildfire ever. The Camp Fire in Paradise killed 85 people, and survivors are still recovering from the massive damage.

Wildfires are a natural occurrence in California, but they’ve recently become much larger, a change that scientists attribute largely to climate change – the state is hotter and dryer now than it has been in…well, in a very long time.

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One way to reduce the severity of wildfires is to remove as much dry brush as possible – and that’s where the goats come in.

“It’s another tool in the tool box,” a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.