Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services has recruited a herd of goats to help reduce the risk of local wildfires.

The animals had been grazing in the river bottom over the summer to help out with weed control, but now a new pilot project aims to cut down on the amount of highly-flammable brush in some undeveloped grassland areas within city limits.

Lethbridge Fire Prevention Officer Jeff Marriott says by using the goats to chew through some of the tall grass in the coulees can really reduce the fire risk. “This will hopefully mitigate some of those problems. Especially at this time of year. Our last major grass fires were in the fall, so if we are able to cut the grass down a bit using goats that will help mitigate the fires.”

The goats are working along Scenic Drive South in the Fleetwood and London Road areas and are expected to cover approximately 12 hectares of land. These areas were identified for the pilot because they are close to residential housing and have steep topography, making it more difficult for fire vehicles to access.

A $20,000 grant from Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta (FRIAA) is being used to fund the project.

One of the best ways to control wildfires is to control the amount of fuel available to feed the flames. Other methods of fire suppression such as prescribed burns and mowing are difficult, if not impossible in residential areas and on steep coulees.

Marriott says places in the United States, in California and Colorado, have been using the animals for a while for fire suppression purposes. He notes Lethbridge is the first place in Alberta and possibly the first in Canada to try this.