Goats from Ventura Brush Goats leap onto Eucalyptus Hill as part of the neighborhood's fire safety measures, as Jack Anderson from Cuyama Lambs lends a hand. | Credit: Sarah Stephens

With high fire season rounding the corner, members of the Eucalyptus Hill Improvement Association prepared their canyons earlier this month with the help from a four-legged source — goats.

The association worked with the Santa Barbara City Fire Department (SBFD) to designate the canyons as areas of concern in the city’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan, determining they were at risk for fires and that the community must take action. While efforts have been made with the Fire Department to mitigate areas of fire danger, the overall lack of funding has led the association to take matters into their own hands.

Last year, they hired Cuyama Lamb LLC to graze in the smallest canyon within Eucalyptus Hill in order to eliminate flammable vegetation. This year, they partnered with Ventura Brush Goats, whose goats assist in vegetation management, fire fuel reduction, and land regeneration. According to the Cornell Small Farms Program, sheep and goats have become an increasingly popular option for fire mitigation as they have a “knack for eating weeds, brush, and just about anything with a green leaf.”

Loy Beardsmore, board president of the Eucalyptus Hill Improvement Association, said this method of fire prevention will give firefighters a real opportunity to control future fires that may spark in the Eucalyptus Hill region.

The grazing animals are price-competitive with other methods of vegetation management, but they offer a faster method of clearing up flammable foliage. The goats can eat the vegetation that cause fuel ladders, which can carry fire from low-growing brush into taller trees and rapidly spread a wildfire.

“We’re trying to grow to meet the demand,” said Michael Leicht, owner of Ventura Brush Goats. “This is an increasingly popular choice for vegetation management because of all the benefits for soil health and the positive environmental impact.”

Homeowners throughout Eucalyptus Hill who own and border these canyons donated to the fire prevention effort. The goats grazed the canyon behind Alston Road, Rametto Lane, Cima Linda Lane, and Owen Road winding toward the Montecito Country Club, leaving a lot less brush behind them.

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