Goats chew away fire dangers

Hillside becomes less of a worry, bite by bite

John Palminteri, KEYT NewsChannel 3 Senior Reporter, johnp1250@aol.com
POSTED: 06:44 PM PDT Jun 14, 2013    UPDATED: 07:27 PM PDT Jun 17, 2013 
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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

They work day and night, never complain and get all they can eat while on the job.  A herd of goats is also reducing fire dangers in our local hills.

Ian Newsam with Brush Goats 4 Hire from Buellton, says he has many requests for his goats.  He began the business seven years ago.

This week a herd of 150 goats are on T.V. Hill off Carrillo.  Already you can see the difference they have made.  The grasses and small shrubs are disappearing one bite at a time.

With hand crews, "it's extremely deep and extremely steep," said Newsam.

The Santa Barbara City Fire Department says the goats have helped property owners with the required weed abatement to reduce fire dangers.  The city has also hired the company for some park space that's thick with brush and posing some concerns.

"We do like the goats. We've seen they've been a positive tool for us to use," said Ann Marx, S.B. Fire Wildland Specialist.

The goats come in many sizes and shapes.  "The taller guys can clear up to nine feet by standing on their hind legs. They can get between rocks and in between fallen branches," said Newsam.

The goats are kept in their target zone by a low power electronic fence.  There are also two predator dogs to keep intruders out, including coyotes.

They also work around the clock.  At night it's common for them to wake up and eat for awhile, and then go back to sleep.

The goats are expected to be on the hill, and very visible to nearby residents for about another week.