PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - UPDATE 8/25/2016 6:45 PM:
In an age of innovation and technology, local fire agencies are using low tech tools to combat dry grass and other vegetation. Cal Fire brought in hundreds of goats to graze throughout parts of Pebble Beach, eating vegetation that could fuel a fire, getting to areas difficult for people.
"The goats eat everything," goat herder Esteban Aranda Aquino said. "They even eat sticks. Some eat more than others but the younger ones are the ones that eat the most."
Some of the vegetation includes poison oak. Goats don't get the adverse reaction to it like people do. They also eat invasive species.
"They're eating the poison oak, the genista," Cal Fire Battalion Chief Mark Mancini said. "They have a wide variety on their palate, um, with their dietary needs, they can adjust accordingly to what vegetation's out there."
In the past, Cal Fire has brought the goats to Pebble Beach in the fall, but are bringing them back sooner in the year.
"Working with Del Monte Forest Conservancy and the Open Space Advisory committees," Mancini said. "We bring in the goats early, preferably in May-June so we can catch the plants sprouting up before they go to seed, reducing the spread of invasive species and also that gives us a good fire protection barrier earlier in the season."
Cal Fire said goats are much more environmentally friendly than the alternative – bringing in mechanical equipment that can create dust and noise for the neighbors and crews wouldn't have to come back and use pesticides to kill the noxious weeds.
The 250 goats are from Orinda-based "Goats R Us," and include different breeds like Angora, Alpine and Pygmy. Aside from the occasional scuffles between some of them, many in the workforce are well-behaved.
"There's usually one or two that will get out at some point and time but the herder who manages the goats and the dogs are able to bring them back in and keep them with the herds," Mancini said. "Mostly the goats will stay together in the herd."
Cal Fire wants the goats to graze in at least five different areas. The goats will stay in the Pescadero Canyon area for another week or two, then they'll be herded over to Morse Gate and Sloat areas.
Grass-eating goats have long been used to cut down on vegetation in Monterey County, reducing the risk of a brush fire. This time, they're working in Pebble Beach as part of a fire suppression effort.
Cal Fire says its also concerned about the number of dead trees across the state, including the Central Coast.
KION's Mariana Hicks takes a look at what's being done locally to reduce the risk of wildfire.