Goats chewing away at grass in Hangman Park to minimize fire risk

SPOKANE, Wash. — More than 200 goats were released into Hangman Park on Friday in an effort to reduce wildfire danger.

The goats will be in the park for about six days, eating away at six acres of vegetation. It is part of a fire mitigation pilot program efforted by the Spokane Fire Department.

Hangman Park is near many homes and is susceptible for wildfires.

“I think our culture is ‘Near nature, near perfect.’ We love having and enjoy having our parks and our nature areas as close as possible,” said Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer, of the City of Spokane Fire Department.

However being out near all those trees can be dangerous, too.

“A lightning strike, or an accident or a purposeful start could be devastating to this neighborhood,” Schaeffer said.

That’s why the goats were introduced to a new home, at least temporarily. The goal is for them to reduce all the fuel in the park so a fire does not happen, or shouldn’t spread if one does start.

“When we look at the topography of these native lands, these types of places where we can’t get in with equipment, these goats are one of the most efficient, agile machines that we have, and they’re cute, to be able to help us with the fuel reduction in our native lands in Spokane,” said Garrett Jones, the director of the City of Spokane’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Schaeffer says using the goats is much more cost effective than using machines and people.

“If we’d use humans, this would take much much longer, and we would come at a pretty hefty tax payers expense,” he said.

After those six days, the city will take a look at Hangman Park and see how the goats did in cleaning up the vegetation.  Then, in the summer or spring, they’ll see what type of regrowth happens.

“We want to just see again in the spring, what that response is like and gauge that success versus the man and mechanical removals, and be able to make those decisions in the future,” he said.

If successful, Jones says the goats could graze land near Beacon Hill, Meadowglen Park in the future to help prevent wildfires.

Parts of Hangman Park will be blocked off while the goats are in the area and the public is asked to avoid feeding the animals. Jones asks people to not touch the goats or the fence, as it is electrified.