South Pasadena stole a play out the playbook of other cities.
That’s the way South Pasadena Fire Chief Paul Riddle described it Thursday afternoon as a herd of hungry goats took over a hillside on Collis Avenue in the Moffatt Canyon area of South Pasadena.
For the first time in the city’s long history, a large herd of goats will be used to graze 10 acres of a fire-prone hillside area as part of South Pasadena’s fire-prevention effort.
“This environmentally-friendly approach ensures that combustible weeds and non-native plants are removed from the hillside, reducing the potential for future wildfires,” explained John Pope, the city’s public information officer in a statement.
The animals were eagerly chomping away during a news conference as Riddle talked about the importance of the procedure to clear the acreage of land. The assemblage of reporters navigated a steep incline before setting eyes on about 100 goats eating grasses, weeds, and shrubs in their path.
“Cities have been using goats to manage hazard vegetation for a long time,” explained Riddle.
He said their use has been considered in the past. “We really didn’t feel like there was a cost justification,” he said, until deciding to making the expenditure this year. “This past winter when we had the excess rains throughout California, that sparked a lot of growth that cities now have to manage entering into fire season.”
Riddle says he’s in favor of the effective, environmentally friendly fire suppression method that has become popular throughout the state.
The cost to the city to clear the 10,000 acres is roughly $20,000, Riddle explained. “That money is budgeted every year,” he said. “The City of South Pasadena works very closely with its residents up here in what we consider a high hazard fire area. We work very closely with our citizens to ensure that they are not only keeping their properties free of hazards and vegetation, but we are also. So, this is an ongoing budgeted amount.”
Riddle added, “As we go into these later months (of the year) where Santa Ana winds are a new risk, we want to really get ahead of managing any type of hazardous vegetation that remains in our city.”
Goats get his vote as the best remedy to weed out vegetation in tough to get places. “You can see,” he said, pointing to the area filled with goats. “It would be very difficult for hand crews to go in and navigate through that terrain, cut the vegetation and actually move it”
It will take about 20 days, according to Riddle, for the goats to eat what’s on the 10 acres of land. The Sage Environmental Group, which has deployed goat herds in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, has brought the herd of goats to South Pasadena.
“They are very well supervised, so there is not overgrazing,” stressed Riddle. “The goats remove exactly what we want them to – the invasive weeds and mustard plants.”
Alissa Cope, representing Sage Environmental, thanked the City of South Pasadena “for investing in this very effective holistic way of managing open space,” An electric fence protects the goats and guard dogs are also available if needed to help keep the livestock away from predators.
And humans, too.
“If you touch it, it will certainly wake you up, so try to avoid that,” said Cope, warning the media about the fence ready to send a jolt.