Grazing goats help prevent wildfire

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 1:45 PM

Pete Zimowsky

BOISE, Idaho -- Neighborhood Firewise practices, alert residents and a bunch of hungry goats are being credited with averting what could have been a disastrous fire in the Warm Springs Mesa neighborhood in the East Boise Foothills.

A squirrel got into the wiring in a transformer Friday morning and was electrocuted, causing a fire at the base of the tower in a wildland grassy area just 30 yards behind one of the homes on South Ridge Point Way.

A resident walking a dog saw the fire and alerted a homeowner. The Boise Fire Department was called, but in the meantime, homeowner Nancy Budge got a garden hose and started fighting the blaze.

"When the fire truck arrived, the firefighters were amazed to find the situation was under control as the area had just been worked on by our rented goat herd to reduce the brush down to a minimum," said Tom Burns, a coach with the Warm Springs Mesa Neighborhood Association's Firewise Community Program.

"Our project paid off big time," he said. "Basically what took place was a textbook exercise of Firewise efforts in advance of an actual event with a great outcome."

The preparation meant there was no fuel for the fire, Burns said.

More than 300 goats grazed the outskirts surrounding Warm Springs Mesa and mowed down high grasses and brush in May. The herd is owned by Tim and Lynda Linquist of We Rent Goats.

The Mesa's Firewise practices got under way after 10 wildfires occurred in 2011 on undeveloped land surrounding the 440-home subdivision east of Table Rock.

The neighborhood association teamed up with the city of Boise to reduce wildland fuels, Burns said. The association also had herbicide applied to 78 acres in vulnerable areas outside the subdivision. Spray wasn?t used in a 100-foot buffer zone between the sprayed area and houses. The goats were allowed to graze in that buffer zone.

Fire will always occur, but the point of the Firewise program and having goats graze an area is to slow a fire down, said Capt. Jerry McAdams, the wildfire mitigation coordinator with Boise Fire Department?s fire prevention division.

)2012 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

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