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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Wildfires have burned through almost a million acres of land already this year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Last year around this time, the number of acres burned was only about half of the current total. Wildfires peak in late spring and continue through fall.
The threat for increased fire danger conditions across the U.S. is expected to continue in the coming weeks.
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Just north of Sacramento, the capital city of California, hundreds of goats and sheep are doing their part by eating overgrown weeds and grass.
The goats and sheep are being used to help reduce the risk of grass fires that could spread to nearby homes. The goats’ removal of grass reduces fire risk.
The city started the program last year at another regional park. The goats and sheep have been brought back, ahead of what fire officials say could be a potentially devastating wildfire season.
“We’ve had a fairly dry winter, so it’s going to be a more active fire season,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Battalion Chief Jon Heggie said.
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Every state in the west is experiencing extreme drought in at least one county. Almost all California cities are experiencing severe drought conditions.
“As the summer comes, the area becomes drier and drier, and this is a fire hazard abatement effort,” Sacramento Parks Manager Shawn Aylesworth said.
Though small, the goats can clear a few acres in just a couple of days and get into hard-to-reach areas machinery can’t.
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“As we go into the hot summer months, that dry fuel will be more receptive to have the potential for another busy fire season,” Heggie said.
This method of grazing isn’t new for farmers and ranchers but has become a more sustainable and safe way of clearing overgrown brush.