When the El Nino rains fell last winter in California, thick and tall grass grew in the once-parched land, but now that those rains have passed, the grass turned into dry fuel for what could be the start of another tough fire season.
While the late summer and early fall is typically the period with the highest risk for wildfires, the California Department of Forestry and Fire reports the number of acres of scorched land on the properties under its jurisdiction is already up 60 percent from a year ago.
To lessen the threat posed by the brittle underbrush and those thick clumps of grass, landowners and the state are literally removing it bite by bite. Hungry animals are increasingly replacing hand crews, tractors and mechanized weed mowers.
"They just do such a great job," said Cal Fire Capt. Lucas Spelman. "It's a more eco-friendly kind of way to clean up vegetation, a lot less noise and those goats allow you to get into areas where mechanized equipment has a hard time getting in there."
The targeted grazing also is seen as safer, particularly in the hot and dry summer months.