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Sheep and goats arrive to eat up grass and brush on Eucalyptus Hill, reducing threat in high-fire area

Goat and sheep fire prevention
A goat and sheep fire prevention combo is underway in the Eucalyptus Hill Improvement Association district of Santa Barbara.
Goat and sheep fire prevention
A goat and sheep fire prevention combo is underway in the Eucalyptus Hill Improvement Association district of Santa Barbara.
Goat and sheep fire prevention
A goat and sheep fire prevention combo is underway in the Eucalyptus Hill Improvement Association district of Santa Barbara.
Goat and sheep fire prevention
A goat and sheep fire prevention combo is underway in the Eucalyptus Hill Improvement Association district of Santa Barbara.
Goat and Sheep Fire Prevention
A goat and sheep fire prevention combo is underway in the Eucalyptus Hill Improvement Association district of Santa Barbara.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A difficult canyon to access is one of the main target zones for fire prevention in the Eucalyptus Hill area. Now sheep and goats have been brought in by the homeowner's association to help out.

The Eucalyptus Hill Improvement Association says it has been working with Santa Barbara City Fire Department, Santa Barbara County Fire Department, and the Montecito Fire Protection District to have those canyons designated as "areas of concern with the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP)."  

The area is considered a high-fire zone with the terrain, vegetation and the high volume of homes.

Areas that have had goats or sheep in the past can get the work done without a lot of noise or hand crews. These animals are very effective on the "ladder fuels" closer to the ground that can spread fast and climb into higher trees or thicker brush.

The sheep were recently in Elings Park in several areas and they have also been used in the Tea Gardens, Scofield Park, and the San Marcos Foothills Preserve.

To begin the project, the sheep are in a small canyon bordered by Eucalyptus Hill Road from the Eucalyptus Hill Drive area down along Alston Road. 

Loy Beardsmore, president of the Eucalyptus Hill Improvement Association, says there's been a change in the landscaping. "It was a lot thicker coming up to this point they are thinning out what is down in there so it is making a difference."

Cuyama Lamb, LLC delivered the sheep and surrounded the target area with a lightly-charged electric fence to keep them from leaving. There is also a security dog in with the sheep and goats.

The far-reaching impacts are both direct and indirect. "Eucalyptus Hill borders Montecito, it borders the Riviera, the Eastside, the lower Eastside, essentially the city. If we had a major inferno it would impact everyone throughout the city," said Beardsmore.

The homeowners are hoping fire agencies and city staff will help to cut red tape that may be restricting grants. The association's Vice President Sue Burk said, "We need to collaborate with the fire department and try to get this taken care of. "

Tree companies are hesitant in some areas due to the terrain and what's growing. Burk said many rejected the project. "They won't go in because there is so much poison oak. The goats love poison oak!"

Other homeowners groups are also looking at fire prevention projects and the goat and sheep approach could also be a consideration.

"It would be nice if every area in the city would do something like this. It would be really great," said Beardsmore.

After the current project of six to ten acres, there are two other canyons nearby that will be cordoned off for the sheep and goats to go on a fire prevention feeding frenzy in the coming months.

For more information on these sheep, click here.

For more information on the Eucalyptus Hill Improvement Association go to: EHIA

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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