SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — In Southern California, wildfire season has traditionally started in early summer and runs through the fall. But it has begun earlier over the past few years due to current conditions, firefighters say.
What You Need To Know
- Nearly 350 goats eat brush near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library as part of fire prevention
- This year, the goats will be on-site for seven to eight days
- In 2019, the Easy fire caused half a million dollars worth of damages to the presidential library
- As the goats eat, they help build a fire perimeter to aid in firefighting
While fire departments are asking homeowners to clear the brush around homes and buildings, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, goats are being used to help clear brush that can act as fire fuel.
The goats' mission is simple — to eat.
The feasting is a sight employees such as Melissa Giller, who has worked at the presidential library since 2001, look forward to every year.
"We love the goats! We'll come out on our breaks and just watch them for 20, 30 minutes," she said.
The goats do not take breaks because they have a deadline. June 1 is the date properties in fire-prone areas in Ventura County are required to clear at least 100 feet of brush for wildfire prevention.
The goats are filling their bellies while creating a firebreak around the library, which houses priceless memorabilia such as Air Force One.
"It makes a ton of sense, right? I mean, they have to eat. They're going to eat brush," she said.
Giller said she saw proof in 2019 that the goats can be a powerful firefighting tool. That year a wildfire started and went up Presidential Drive.
"That's the road you take up to the property. It came up the hillside. It encircled the entire Air Force One Pavilion, the hills behind me. The whole mountainside, the whole museum was just orange in flames. It was really, really scary. I didn't know if the library would survive undamaged," she said.
To Giller's relief, firefighters were able to save the library, which she considers a second home, from major damage during the Easy fire in 2019, but it did suffer an estimated $500,000 in damages.
"Many firefighters told us it was the perimeter and the fire break that the goats had eaten on our property, that helped them fight the fire so successfully," she said.
Ventura County Fire Captain Brian McGrath said the department used to clear the brush at the library by hand, but for the past five to six years, they have had goats to help.
"This year, we have about 350 goats, and they're going to be taking care of about 13 acres," he said.
McGrath said because there has not been much rain this year, it will be a relatively quick stop at the buffet for the goats.
"They actually finish it up in seven to eight days, whereas last year it took 20," he said.
However long they stay, Giller said the goats are a welcomed sight, unlike what it looked like from inside the building in 2019 during the Easy fire. She said it was black smoke and "just flowing orange."
Having the goats back is a "sense of reassurance that we're always going to be safe up here."
For more information about preparing for wildfires, visit: https://vcfd.org/public-info/ready-set-go/.