To prevent wildfires, Lethbridge brings in outside experts: a herd of goats
City of Lethbridge is taking a 4-legged approach to fire mitigation
The City of Lethbridge is taking a four-legged approach to fire mitigation — setting loose a herd of hungry goats on the community's brush.
Jeff Marriott, a fire prevention officer with the municipality, says the goat grazing project was developed in order to minimize the amount of brush, which is highly flammable.
"The fire won't be able to hold, you know, with that trim, trim grass," Marriott said. "In a wildfire, the biggest concern is always the flying embers. So this way, if it's down to the ground, the sparks won't be able to catch fire."
The city initially developed a fire mitigation plan in 2017, mapping out the city to determine the areas most vulnerable to wildfires.
The plan revealed the coulees located along Scenic Drive South and the London Road neighbourhood were the most dangerous, considering their high residential population and limited accessibility for emergency vehicles.
A consultant suggested employing controlled burns in the area but was vetoed due to the nearby residential areas.
"I thought, the second best option would be goats," Marriott said.
The pilot project, which is now underway, is funded by a $20,000 grant from the Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta.
Lethbridge isn't the first community to utilize goats in such a fashion. Marriott said states such as California have proved the method's effectiveness.
Goats have also been used in Calgary, but only to tackle invasive weeds and keep grass under control in city green spaces.
Spring wildfires burning between March and June consumed more than 800,000 hectares in Alberta — five times more than the five-year average — according to data from Alberta Wildfire.