(BCN) — Goat season is well underway in Oakland, with a herd of 450 helping to reduce fire risks by chomping away on dry vegetation that’s sprouted along hillside properties over the past several months. Since about 1994, the goats have been an increasingly integral part of the Oakland Fire Department’s fire hazard mitigation strategy and this year’s herd is one of the largest deployed for such a purpose in the entire state, said department spokesman Michael Hunt.

“Goats have really proven to be a cost effective, environmentally sound way to clear combustible vegetation across large areas, especially areas with steep and difficult terrain,” Hunt said Monday.

Historically the department has spent about $500,000 a year to bring goat herds into the city, Hunt said. Oakland’s goat season typically starts in late April and lasts through the Bay Area’s hot, dry months, usually wrapping up sometime in mid-September.

The animals are trucked from one location to another during their annual visit to the city, are hemmed in by temporary fences and minded by professional shepherds. The herd is expected to clear roughly 900 acres this year, Hunt said.

The goats often attract a lot of attention from residents, who can track their progress via the fire department’s social media accounts, which periodically post about their movements. On Monday, the department announced on Twitter that the goats were being moved from the King Estate Open Space Park in East Oakland to an area along Interstate 580 near 106th Avenue.

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Over the next few months, the goats will also descend upon areas along Tunnel Road, Skyline Boulevard, around Leona Lodge and the North Oakland Regional Sports Center, among other places. In addition to the goats, the fire department began sending inspectors to roughly 25,000 properties across the city Monday to make sure people are keeping the areas around their homes and other structures free from fire fuels, Hunt said.

Usually, about 85 to 90 percent of property owners comply with the fire safety rules but last year 95 percent took steps to clear dangerous vegetation from their properties.

“People are feeling more and more responsible to make sure their neighbors are safe,” Hunt said.

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