A herd of brush-eating goats will arrive at Westmont College this week to clear defensible space around the campus, as a fire-prevention measure. The goats, from the Santa Barbara County-based company Brush Goats 4 Hire, will set to work on several areas of Westmont targeted for clearance by the Montecito Fire Department.
“Each year the college takes an active role in reducing the brush fuel load on campus,” explained Troy Harris, Westmont’s director of risk management. “The recent fires have demonstrated the importance of such efforts.” Harris pointed out that the goats have been successful in clearing flammable foliage in Montecito, projects monitored by the Fire Department.
The goats allow people to tackle weeds and brush in an eco-friendly fashion, according to Brush Goats 4 Hire. “The goats naturally fertilize the soil, assisting with erosion control,” Harris pointed out. Not only are they green, they are quieter than heavy equipment that is sometimes used for the job and they are easier to manage in difficult terrain.
The goats are scheduled to clear three spaces on the Westmont campus, one west and north of Page Hall, a second south of the bridge on La Paz Road, and a third above the northwest corner of Chelham Way. Lorraine Argo of Brush Goats 4 Hire anticipates that the total project, some 8.5 acres, should be cleared in just under a month. The target areas, she pointed out, include some parts of the campus that have been burned in the past few years, making it “an easier eat” for the goats. Other parts, Argo went on to say, will be slower going due to the number of buildings and people in the area. “It’s going to be a more difficult job,” Argo explain, describing how people provide distraction for the goats, taking their minds off of the fire-fuelling foliage because of the potential of human provided treats.
The college had intended to bring the goats to campus before the Tea Fire, which trapped the student body in the gym for hours, but was unable to do so for various reasons, Argo said. The goats will be brought to Westmont on Wednesday, July 29 to get settled, with opportunities for photos and visitors on Thursday and Friday before the real munching begins.