Meet SDG&E’s new fire prevention team: a herd of goats

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SAN DIEGO — San Diego Gas & Electric is trying out an unconventional workforce for preventing wildfires: a herd of more than 200 goats.

The utility announced the pilot program Friday, saying about 220 goats will be used to clear “brush and other vegetation-ignition sources around electric infrastructure.” The aim is to reduce the risk of fires sparked by faulty utility equipment, as has been seen in Northern California and elsewhere around the state.

“This is the first SDG&E program to explore an alternative concept to reduce flammable fuels within open space transmission corridors,” SDG&E Landscape Project Manager Bill Click said in a statement. “The pilot program will be in effect at various locations within the SDG&E service territory this year. Once the evaluation process is completed, an informed decision can be made to further implement prescribed grazing.”

The first area where the herd will graze is within a utility-owned property in Chula Vista, with other areas considered for the future. The herd and staff caring for them were acquired through a contract with a local environmental land management company, according to SDG&E.

Though it’s a first for the utility, hoofed creatures for hire have cleared land in other parts of the county. In Lemon Grove, a herd was employed at a cost of $675 per acre in 2019. SDG&E did not release an estimated cost for their pilot program.

Proponents say using animals for landscaping is beneficial for the environment because it does away with gas-powered cutting machines and prevents the pile-up of flammable foliage without creating air or noise pollution. SDG&E adds that they expect the approach to prevent “the spread of noxious weeds” and promote “the growth of local vegetative species through moderate grazing.”

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