Solutions to fight wildfires were a hot topic at a roundtable of local and federal officials Wednesday.
Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue led the discussion on fire preparedness and recovery at College of the Canyons.
Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste, Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean and Councilman Bill Miranda were in attendance, as well as representatives from the Los Angeles County and Ventura County fire departments.
Weste spoke of the city’s emphasis on purchasing and preserving open space districts, and also discussed how the burden to maintain the wild landscapes of the SCV falls on the residents.
“Most people don’t know how to plant trees and brush in their yards to prevent fire from being a problem,” she said. “I get a fire notice every year and I take it seriously, but people often ignore those. We need tougher building codes and harsh penalties on people that start fires. You can’t take it lightly.”
McLean suggested using grazing livestock, such as goats, as a solution to restore earth with soil that melted together during a fire, which Perdue agreed sounded like a good idea.
“We need to try to develop defensible spaces and deal with (grass) overgrowth and under-management,” Perdue said.
“It’s up to the fire agencies to tell us where grazing may be needed, and if that’s something that works in public lands,” Knight said.
Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said his area, which as been affected by wildfires, too, uses goats in the aftermath for about a week.
It has proved to be an effective solution, he said.
Randy Moore, a U.S. Forest Service regional forester, said grazing was a good alternative to prescribed burning as a solution, primarily because of concerns with smoke.
Weste said that if agencies use more goats, they will need to keep in mind that they require protection from predators like mountain lions and coyotes.
Perdue pushed for more collaboration among federal, state and local agencies and environmentalists to gauge the best way to reduce a threat.
“We definitely need to work together to get this done,” he said.
“There’s a lot of things we can do to educate the public,” Weste said. “Many people aren’t doing enough.”
Before the roundtable, a College of the Canyons student and political activist tried to enter the meeting but was asked by security to leave the premises. Coverage can be found here.