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SoCal inmates working alongside sheep, goats to clear dry brush that could fuel fires

By Irene Cruz

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    OJAI, California (KABC) — We’ve seen California inmates on the front lines fighting fires, but it’s not often we see them battling blazes before they even begin – or using sheep and goats for help.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has partnered with Shepherdess Land & Livestock Co., a grazing business based in upper Ojai with one goal in mind: to keep flames from spreading.

As part of the program, inmates help manage the animals who munch away at dry brush that could be fuel for fires.

Four hundred sheep and goats can eat through about one acre of vegetation a day. They can get to spots like a sloped terrain in Castaic that might be hard for people to reach with tools.

300 goats to be placed around Glendale to help prevent wildfires

A herd of unlikely heroes will be helping Glendale clear the dried up hillsides this summer.

But that’s not the only benefit. The sheriff’s department says a program like this helps reduce recidivism and builds skills inmates can use when they get back into the workforce.

“They’re learning how to work with animals, how to manage the land and ultimately, potentially, have a job in a growing green industry,” said Melissa Kelley, director of the Gender Response Services for LASD.

The animals are guided by herding dogs and solar-powered electric fencing that inmates help put up.

The sheriff’s department says they hope to keep using the program.

“We want to be able to have them up here. It is a program that we intend to sustain into the future because we think there’s tremendous value to it,” said Assistant Sheriff Sergio Aloma.

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