Katy Smotherman and her family watched from the side of Dry Creek Road as over 900 goats roamed a hillside. PG&E is using the goats in a pilot project that removes dry vegetation from power lines and power facilities.
A similar hillside just down the road fed a devastating fire almost exactly four years ago that destroyed or damaged about 100 homes and businesses.
“It was really really scary,” said Smotherman who watched several of her neighbors’ homes burn down.
The goats are an ecological solution to removing flammable vegetation for PG&E, which says it’s good for residents too.
“The goats leave nutrients in the ground, they eat invasive species that no other animal will eat and it’s cost effective,” said Jack Harvey of PG&E’s forestry division.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says it’s safer than using mechanical cutters because they can ignite the dry grasses.
“We want any method but that. We don’t want fires being sparked and goats are the perfect opportunity,” said Lynne Tomachoff of the Department.
The goats finished off one area with two foot high grass in just 24 hours, leaving a mat of leftovers barely an inch high.
Goat herders normally search for grazing land this time of year for their herds so they get an advantage too.
“I looked up and saw the goats. I was ecstatic. Like the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Smotherman.