Spokane Fire Department plans to use goats to clear brush, prevent fires

Goats grazing in a field.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane Fire Department is planning to use grazing animals to help prepare for fire season.

In a memorandum sent to the City Council, the Fire Department announced its plan with Parks and Urban Forestry to launch a pilot program, identifying three locations to test animals in grazing operations.

This pilot program will then be evaluated for fuel reduction, cost effectiveness, and general efficiency compared to controlled burning and hand-crews.

The Fire Department weighed several factors in using grazing animals to clear brush and create fire lines. They say they would consider using these animals over other mechanical means for several reasons:

  • Preserving air quality
  • Limiting noise
  • Proximity to buildings
  • Steep slopes
  • Soil compaction
  • Weed control

With this in mind, a series of guidelines has been put in place in the event of the City hiring contractors to clear out brush, which include management practices, site evaluation and animal characteristics.

The Fire Department concedes that there are downsides to using animals, including supplying water, herding and transporting them, and their method of eating – which can sometimes kill trees or fail to kill invasive plants.

Chelan County has instituted a similar practice, as well as Redding, California and Medford, Oregon.