October of 1993 will never be forgotten in this town. Wind-whipped

flames devoured homes, hillsides and grasslands, charred landscapes and

seared those in this town with the memory of a fire that they never want

to relive.


One remedy that city officials hatched to help ensure that the fear

and destruction wrought by the Laguna fire would not return with such

vengeance -- goats.

That’s right, as most readers probably know, about 550 plant munching,


grass chewing goats have been chomping down on the hillsides of Laguna

since right after that 1993 blaze, gobbling up potential fuel for future


While the program -- the first of its kind on the West coast -- has

had some glitches and complaints of the environmental mess the goats

make, its creation is being heralded today as a bold experiment as it

received an award last month from the Office of Emergency Services.

The goats are effective for several reasons. First, they are cheap.


Mike Phillips, the city’s environmental specialist in Public Works,

points out the initial cost to employ the goat program was $528,000 with

$396,000 of that paid by the federal Emergency Management Agency.

Annually, it costs about $198,000 to keep the program up, much cheaper

than it would with human labor, Phillips said.

All kidding aside, city government often butts heads with residents

over decisions it makes, but in this case it’s time for some kudos to be

dished out and we’d like to join others in that chorus.