Selena Goatmez is champing at the bit (more like chomping) to combat wildfires before they happen. Leading a crew of more than 100, Selena and company, which includes Billy (as in “The Kid”), Rancher and Vincent Van Goat, have joined forces to create safe zones around homes frequently threatened by California’s devastating fire danger.
This team of hotshots has what it takes to climb steep terrain, scale rocky peaks and hike into places even the most elite firefighters cannot. No special equipment, drones nor Super Scoopers needed. Guess it helps to have slip-proof hooves with incredible grip. Did I mention Selena, Billy, Rancher and Vincent are goats? That’s right. A herd of goats just may be the difference between surviving a ferocious, fast-moving wall of flames or being left in a wake of rubble and ash.
Mike Lilly, a member of the Homeowners Association for Varsity Park Patio Homes in the city of Moorpark says it’s an affordable way to protect lives and property. “The community got interested in doing this the closer the fires got.” Especially since, the recent drought left large areas of thick, dry, brush in a region often impacted by the infamous Santa Ana Winds.
“It was only $15,000 for a ten-acre plot,” Mike says. “It’s all natural, eco-friendly. They just did it up around the Ronald Reagan Library.”
Baaaa… A Business is Born:
Stepping up to fill a need he learned about from two fire captains, Scott Morris launched the company “805 Goats” with his wife Emily at a time when Southern California needs it most. The family-owned business operates without harmful chemicals, reducing weeds and invasive plants and even donated the goats’ services for brush clearance near a junior high and high school (Emily’s alma mater) in Thousand Oaks, one of the cities hit hard by the 2018 wildfires.
Watching these natural grazers leisurely munch away at a tasty variety of vegetation, you can’t help but think how lucky these four-legged workers are to spend their entire shift enjoying an all-you-can-eat buffet.
“The goats get so excited when they see the orange fencing or they see the truck pull up,” Scott says.
The animals eat everything from Chaparral to Buckthorn to Poison Ivy. Because they eat the flower heads and leaves it helps prevent some species from growing back. When deployed, the company strategically places a special fence around the goats until a set area is cleared, then moves on to the next patch of land.
Goats Kick Ash!
The fire breaks these sure-footed “fire fighters” create already led to dramatic results. After the 2018 Woolsey Fire leveled several neighborhoods in Ventura County and beyond, a few lucky home owners in Agoura posted a picture of the goats clearing brush prior to the blaze with the caption: “Thanks to the HOA for the goats, they saved most of our houses.” Pictures on the 805 Goats website show the charred, blackened hillside going right up to the perimeter where the goats did their work…and that’s exactly where the fire stops.
Scott says before starting the business, firefighters told him they were trying to incorporate goats into prevention efforts, but it was challenging to find enough animals for the job. Some departments were looking at transporting them from other states. He describes the goats as gentle, and team-oriented. They never fight, although they can be occasionally stubborn.
Emily says the best part about this line of work is all the people who stop by to see the animals in action. “Many reminisce about their childhood on a farm or share other fond memories.” Her own kids are even getting in on the act, giving each goat its own special name, such as Nibbles, Cookie and Dwight Schrute (so, he must be the assistant to the regional manager?)
The herd is growing. On a recent job near Santa Barbara, 10 new goats were born. Emily says they’ve become attached to the animals, now all part of the family. While some of their fellow species maybe striking a pose or doing a downward dog in a trendy goat yoga class, these kids are headed on a different path. Scott says they started 805 Goats to make a difference in their community. So far, they’re on the right track.
These goats are credited with helping to protect the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library during the Easy Fire that ignited October 30, 2019. The goats were hired prior to the blaze to create a major fire break between the library and surrounding land. The flames came frighteningly close to the building housing Air Force One and countless other historic items, but the break created by the goats helped make a difference in the fire fight. With fires becoming an annual threat, the goats have become an annual tradition at this tourist attraction and visitors enjoy watching them munch away on the library grounds.
Visit the 805 Goats web site for more information about the company’s services.
By Marlene Casillas