An effort dubbed the 2012 City of Boise Wildland Urban Interface Fire Prevention Project, aside from being a mouthful to say, is not the first instance of using an unmistakably organic method to mitigate wildfires. But it may be the most unique.
This summer, hundreds of goats will be feasting on whitetop weed, a persistent perennial, and as side dishes, the herd will dine on overgrown grasses and vegetation that could serve as fuel for a wildfire.
"Goats are very environmentally friendly," said Boise Fire Capt. Jerry McAdams. "They are natural fertilizers and they don't tear up the ground like, say, sheep do."
McAdams is anxious for the goats to get going with this year's fire-prevention assignment, scheduled to begin Friday, June 1 near northwest Boise's Quail Ridge and Briarhill neighborhoods.
"More than 700 goats will be coming," said Tim Lindquist, owner of We Rent Goats.
McAdams is the first to admit that animal husbandry is not the first thing on a firefighter's agenda.
"I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about goats in the past year. But a goat has this enzyme in its stomach that kills the seeds that they eat," said McAdams. "This project has been so successful and so well-received."
Soon after the city proposed goat-grazing for Quail Hollow and Briarhill, McAdams said more neighborhoods began emailing Boise officials, asking for the goats to bring their appetites to their back yards.
The Warm Springs Mesa and Military Reserve areas have already scheduled goat visits later this summer. In addition to the herd, weed-eating and sagebrush-thinning equipment will be brought into the neighborhoods.
Lindquist has also begun contracting his goats directly to private landowners in the Foothills. One resident, near Troutner Way and Table Rock Road, has hired 100-150 goats to graze his eight acres of sloping land.
"I'll tell you, it is definitely not something you rent out for just a birthday party," said Jim Kisler, who paid $1,500 to rent the goats.
But it was a party nevertheless. Less than 50 feet beyond the goats' invisible electric fence, the landowner had set up a large party tent and was serving wine and snacks to family and friends. They called it a "goat welcoming party"--less of a mouthful and much easier to remember.