Grazing Animals Prevent Fires

Goats and sheep deploy their appetites to save Barcelona from wildfires: Swapping sirens for bells and equipped with voracious appetites, Barcelona’s newest firefighting recruits began delicately picking past hikers and cyclists in the city’s largest public park earlier this year. The four-legged brigade – made up of 290 sheep and goats – had just one task: to munch on as much vegetation as possible.

Their arrival turned Barcelona into one of the latest places to embrace an age-old strategy that’s being revived as officials around the world face off against a rise in extreme wildfires. The idea is simple: wildfire-prone areas are handed over to grazing animals, who chomp and trample over dry vegetation that could otherwise accumulate as fuel for fires. Whether the animals are semi-wild or overseen by a shepherd who is usually compensated for their efforts, a job well done usually leaves behind a landscape dotted with open spaces that can act as firebreaks.

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