As the saying goes, not all heroes wear capes. Some run head first into a fire equipped with over 45 pounds of gear and live to tell about it.
Firefighters are heroes. No doubt about that. But they don’t all fit the “wearing flame-retardant gear to battle back flames” mold. Some are planners, working on long term prevention. Some are ecologists, trying to understand the large scale impacts that wildfires have on our ecosystems. And some… have horns, hooves, walk on four legs, and eat grass.
What we’re getting at is, not all firefighters are human at all. Some, it turns out, are goats.
Fire Departments all across California have been relying on goats to clear the type of brush that can act as devastating wildfire fuel every year for almost a decade. And the goats are so good at the job that one small town in California even set up a Go Fund Me campaign this year — cheekily named Goat Fund Me — to raise money to bring goats in to clear the brush on hundreds of wildfire-vulnerable city-owned acres.
The Smithsonian reports that “about 6,000 woodland fires sweep California annually,” and just last year, the Woolsey Fire made national headlines as it devastated Ventura and Los Angeles counties burning over 96,000 acres, destroying 1,643 homes and causing $500 million in damages. In southern California, the fire season is inescapable, Inspector Brian Stevens of the Los Angeles County Fire Department contends that “right now, wildfire season is considered year-round in the county of Los Angeles” which means every day that there isn’t a wildfire blazing in Southern California, is a good day to practice sensible fire prevention. In the summer months when the wild grasses are drying out, that means calling a herd of goats to munch away at potential fuel.
One of the reasons goats are so useful to fire departments statewide is their unique physiology, which makes them expert climbers, and their near-insatiable appetites.