Sheep to fight fires

Sheep to fight fires

06 August 2010

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USA — Sheep aren’t just for shearing anymore — at least not in Porterville.

The City Council voted Tuesday night to incorporate the rams and ewes, and other livestock, especially goats, in the Fire Department’s weed abatement tack next year. They’ll likely be used in the springtime to eat away the green grass and brush on rugged terrain that is hard to access, but poses a threat to sparking grass fires when it dries out.

“Sheep will not touch brush, goats will eat anything,” Councilman Pete McCracken said.

The suggestion, which came from residents, drew some corny jokes from councilmen.

The livestock will be allowed on properties zoned rural residential and agriculture conservation.

While the number of properties on the list to mail weed abatement notices to has nearly doubled since 2006, the number of grass fires has dropped by 56 percent since 2009.

“With an aggressive approach in the weed abatement program, the number of service calls for grass fires has declined in the last four years,” Fire Chief Mario Garcia wrote in a letter to the City Council.

Another suggestion from property owners, however, will not become part of the weed abatement program. One resident reportedly suggested that landowners be allowed to divide large parcels by firebreaks, rather than plowing down an entire parcel. He said if a fire broke out, response from he Fire Department would not be necessary.

The City Council, voted that option down, because it didn’t want to assume liability for putting other citizens at risk.

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