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Sheep arrive in Montecito to work on a three week fire prevention project

MONTECITO, Calif. - Before a major wildland fire breaks out threatening front country communities, full scale fire prevention efforts are underway. In the Montecito Ennisbrook open space, about 200 sheep have arrived off of Highway 192.

Montecito Fire Wildland Specialist Nic Elmquist said, "what the sheep are doing are targeting that dry grasses which would be the most ignitable to embers."

Bite by bite, the area becomes less of a fire threat. This program is run by the Cuyama Lamb company which has a protective dog on site to scare away other animals.

A low power electric fence is set up to keep the sheep in check. Cuyama Lamb says multiple sites in several fire prone locations are full of sheep now.

Company foreman Cristian Arambula said, "so we have a thousand sheep total so we are bouncing throughout the areas throughout the day." They are also at Elings Park and recently worked in an area by the Santa Barbara Bowl.

And this is a lot quieter than the sound of several weed wackers doing the same work.

Funds have been allocated specifically for these types of projects to reduce the threat of a fire another day.
Elmquist said, "the Santa Barbara County Fire Safe council was awarded a grant for about $2 million. That's about 25 projects. This is the first one we are implementing. It will be about 3000 acres over the course of  three years." Funding comes from the Cal Climate Investment and it is managed by Cal Fire.

Wildland fire specialists say a key part of fire protection is early prevention.

Elmquist said, "what we try to do is get ahead of it, get ahead of the problem and try to do fuels reduction."

The work is along a popular hiking trail and those who come through on foot are impressed with the early fire season efforts.

Hiker Rachel Fiero said, "keep it from getting into neighborhoods. This is a great idea. This is where we should be putting our efforts."

There's plenty to eat and this group of sheep is expected to go through the grass and low lying vegetation at a rate of about an acre a day.

Elmquist said, "we are thinking three weeks to a month in this particular area, the plan is just about an acre they call them paddocks, and starting up here and then move them south."

Already in just a couple of days, there's been a big change, even with the additional grasses after the heavy winter rains.

Arambula said, "that extends it to one and a half acres a day with all this volume that you are seeing. It's really good timing that we are here now."

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Article Topic Follows: Lifestyle
Montecito Fire Protection District
Santa Barbara
wildfire prevention efforts

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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