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U.S Agriculture Secretary Perdue, Congressman Knight Discuss California Wildfires

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue came together with Congressman Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, as well as City of Santa Clarita and Fire officials Wednesday morning to discuss the best ways to address wildfires in the Santa Clarita Valley.

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Santa Clarita, CA, August 15, 2018 | Chris Jusuf (202-225-1956) | comments
KHTS
August 15, 2018
By Michael Brown

Perdue wrapped up a three-day swing through California by taking part in a panel discussion at the College of the Canyons Valencia campus about fire preparedness and recovery.

Perdue and Knight met with officials from local Fire agencies, as well as City officials to discuss how to address fires in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“When it comes down to it, these fires are one of the most devastating things that happen to California,” Knight said. “And they happen every year.”



The major theme for the discussion was prevention, with City officials proposing several ideas to Perdue in order to help better stop fires from occuring before they even happen.

Santa Clarita City Councilman Bill Miranda shared his belief that more should be done in terms of community outreach and participation.

“There were many times during all the fires that we as a community sit here and we root for you guys,” Miranda said, addressing the Fire and law enforcement officials in the room. “But a lot of us could be, to use an old term, ‘bucket brigades.’ We want to volunteer; we’re a community of volunteers.”

Miranda also stated that he wanted to see more awareness campaigns in order to help educate residents on how they can prevent fires, citing the Smokey the Bear campaign launched by the U.S. Forest Service in 1944.

“I’d like to see Smokey the Bear come back,” Miranda said. “I’d like to see steady commercials that I grew up with. There are a lot people now that don’t have that benefit.”

Santa Clarita Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean brought up the idea of using livestock, such as goats, to graze on brush as an environmentally safer alternative to practices such as controlled burns.

“There are folks who actually have goats that they send out, and that might be something that can be utilized,” McLean said.

The use of goats has been employed by Fire officials in the past. The practice has been utilized in the area surrounding the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for the past 10 years, according to officials.

“If you can have goat yoga, you can have goat grazing,” Perdue said, referring to the recent internet trend where individuals do yoga with the animal.



While Fire officials cited high costs as a hindrance to the widespread practice of goat grazing, McLean saw it as cost-saving in the end.

“It might be cheaper in the long run if it prevents these devastating fires,” McLean said.

Throughout the meeting, Perdue continually stressed the importance of the community working together to do their part in preventing wildfires.

“We need more collaboration with the environmental community to help us understand how we can work strategically to keep wildland fires from ravaging everywhere,” Perdue said. “What we want to do is to make sure that our U.S. Forest Service is working more closely with your local officials. It’s in all of our interest to work together to prevent forest fires.”

The U.S. Agriculture Secretary began his California tour Monday, visiting areas devastated by wildfires throughout the state.

Perdue is a former Georgia governor and state senator and was confirmed as secretary of agriculture in March 2017.
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