Just 'kid'ding around: California turns to grass-powered option to reduce risk of wildfires

Up to 1,000 goats and sheep at a time are grazing on grassland in North Sacramento to cut down grass fire risk.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Increased fire safety is arriving on four legs in the city of Sacramento. They’re using goats and sheep to graze on fields and reduce the risk of grass fires.

Up to 1,000 goats and sheep at a time are grazing on grassland in North Sacramento. They’re essentially being rented out from a local rancher and is instead of mowing the area with a tractor.

It’s an environmentally-friendly option, since sheep and goats don’t use gas -- they just need grass!

The city says that it costs about the same as operating a tractor to mow the fields.

The goats and sheep are penned into areas where the city wants the vegetation to be eaten up. They’ll spend about four to six weeks here before moving on to another site.

There’s water here for the animals, and they’re supervised by a ranch-hand 24/7, plus tended by several dogs.

The city started the program last fall grazing 130 acres at a regional park.  This year, they’re upping the ante by grazing 415 acres at three different sites across the city.

Eating up the grass reduces the risk of fires amid drought conditions in California.  

"2022 is predicted to be a very intense fire season for the state," said Sacramento Parks Manager Shawn Aylesworth. "These areas that are open areas that have very dry brush can be ignited by very little of a spark or other ignition source. And again they will spread rapidly. There are open fields and many of these open fields as you can see in North Natomas really come right up to close to the property lines."

And not only do the sheep and goats play an important role in fire safety, they’ve also become somewhat of an attraction.

"People love the animals," Aylesworth said. "People have been traveling you know all around the city to come here to North Natomas to look at the animals, enjoy it, share this opportunity with their kids, using it as an educational opportunity as well."

The goats and sheep will be out here grazing until the late spring. Then they’ll do another tour of duty come late summer to eat up any regrowth that occurs.