Laguna Beach, CA– Fuel modification programs within the City of Laguna Beach are in high gear ahead of peak fire season to further reduce the risk of loss of life and property damage from wildfires.
“As part of the City’s fuel modification programs, the City currently has two working goat herds to keep fuel levels down to slow the spread of a possible wildfire,” said Laguna Beach Fire Chief Mike Garcia. “On August 15, a third goat herd consisting of another 200 goats was brought in for additional help with fuel modification. That means we now have 800 working goats as part of our fuel modification program to help reduce fire risk in the City of Laguna Beach.”
The City’s goat herd was expanded in size because heavy rains over the winter months have created higher than average growth of brush (fire “fuel”) in Laguna Beach’s fuel modification zones. The first herd of fire goats just completed clearing modification zones in North Laguna, behind the Festival of Arts and the area behind City Hall. That herd is now working its way from Thurston Middle School to Top of the World Elementary to complete that fuel modification zone before the start of the 2019 – 2020 school year. The second herd started in Arch Beach Heights and completed fuel modification work there and through to the Fire Road, and has now been moved to Bluebird Canyon. The third herd, added last week, will start in South Laguna Beach at Upper Three Arch Bay and move North to Arch Beach Heights. Each herd is guided by its own dedicated goat herder from Peru and a shepherd dog to help guide the herd through the City’s specific fuel modification zones.
“Due to the heavy rains last year we’ve had a lot of vegetative growth here and it’s slow-going with our goats because there is so much of it,” Garcia said. “We haven’t had a third herd in years, but this year we need to bring them in to clear as much growth as we can before we move into the fire season.”
As part of the City’s fuel modification program, a team of experienced hand crews also work in fuel modification zones to clear brush by hand. The hand crew teams (each consisting of about 6-7 professional landscapers) just finished an area located on the hillside near Barracuda Way. Hand crews clear fuel modification zones by 1) identifying and removing any invasive species, 2) removing any dead brush and 3) thinning out flammable species.
“We partner with the Laguna Canyon Foundation to oversee our fuel modification programs and make sure it’s done in the way the environment can sustain and also meet all of the requirements of our Coastal permit,” said Laguna Beach Fire Marshal James Brown. “By partnering with the Laguna Canyon Foundation, we know we have someone out there at the site that really cares about preserving the Laguna environment.”
Nearly all of the City of Laguna Beach and its surrounding 16,000 acres of open space are designated by CalFire as a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. This designation underscores the significant risk in the City and recognizes the loss of 441 structures due to wildfire in 1993.
At its regular meeting July 23, the Laguna Beach City Council unanimously approved a Fire Mitigation and Safety Subcommittee Report and approved moving forward with its recommended action items including additional programs, mitigation measures, staffing and equipment needed to reduce the current level of high fire risk and exposure to wildfires in Laguna Beach and action items needed to further protect the City in the event of a wildfire. A detailed copy of the Subcommittee’s report can be found at http://www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/pw/wildfire_mitigation_and_fire_safety.htm
The City of Laguna Beach is encouraging residents to be better prepared for a wildfire by creating a defensible space and creating a defensible home. You can do this by using fire-safe construction materials, and looking for points of entry where embers could intrude into the home or attic during a fire. Home and property safety preparation should also include creating defensible space around your home by clearing vegetation at least 30 to 100 feet away from your home, and using fire resistant landscaping to help stop the spread of wildfire. Residents should also remove all dead or dying vegetation from their yard, roof and rain gutters. Residents can sign up for a free wildfire consultation by the Laguna Beach Fire Department by visiting
http://www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/fire/fire_prevention/sign_up.htm or by calling 949-497-0700.