New teams of wildfire prevention experts are sprouting up across the world, but they aren’t made up of hotshots or forest managers — they’re herds of goats.
Michael Choi is the creator of Fire Grazers Inc., a fire brush management company that deploys free-range goats in fire-prone areas around California to clear dead vegetation and prevent wildfires.
“Our goal is to assist in the management of fire-hazardous zones through fuel modification, thereby addressing an accelerating regional problem that threatens the livelihood and prosperity of many residents of California,” Choi said on his website. “Our grazing goats can clear an unbelievable amount of brush and weeds. A well-sized herd can complete a job in a single day that would take two or three times as long with a landscaping crew.”
Goats’ mountain climbing expertise gives them a leg up on other wildfire managers. Some areas that may be treacherous for humans are easily scalable for goats, including steep hillsides and canyons.
Fire Grazers Inc. has been around since the early 2010s, but Choi’s technique is getting noticed across the world. Chile’s goat brigades have prevented both wildfires and erosion in the country’s forests, Nevada deployed goats in Reno through a state-funded program, and the City of Quesnel in central British Columbia announced in June it had deployed a herd of 132 goats to eat vegetation in and around designated Fuel Management Trails.
Quesnel’s strategy has been a success. While multiple wildfires burned around the area of the city in 2023, none threatened the city’s residents. The Quesnel Cariboo Observer reported that multiple wildfires west of Quesnel in August triggered evacuations in the nearby town of Eliguk Lake in August. Two other evacuations in July were triggered by the Townsend Creek Fire. British Columbia had its worst fire season on record in 2023, with over three million hectares burned.
Quesnel still stands. The city sits in one of the lowest-priority fire danger areas of the province, according to Canada’s Government. The goats are looking to keep it that way.