Nevada City turns to low- and high-tech solutions to fight wildfire risk |

Nevada City turns to low- and high-tech solutions to fight wildfire risk

Wyatt Thompson, 11, holds the trailer door open so Legacy Ranching's goats can get to work during a prescriptive grazing demonstration in Nevada City's Pioneer Park, in this archive photo.
Photos by Liz Kellar/

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Nevada City made international news for going low-tech with its wildfire suppression efforts, after the “GoatFundMe” campaign to hire a herd of adorable ruminants for a grazing demonstration went viral.

The goats are wrapping up their residency in Pioneer Park, and the City Council is set to vote on bids to extend the grazing work.

But Nevada City is also turning to high-tech solutions as well, in its efforts to protect residents from the type of fire that devastated Paradise last year.

After the city launched its GoatFundMe, Vice Mayor Reinette Senum was contacted by Oliver Curtis and Shea Broussard, creators of a software called FlameMapper that Nevada City plans to use to maximize its fire mitigation efforts.

FlameMapper models near-real-time fire behavior, using simulated virtual fires to understand the movement of fire and fire intensity over a mapped landscape. The company has been working with Alameda and Contra Costa counties, and the city of Malibu, according to its website, and donated in-kind professional services to provide an analysis of a 9-square-mile radius with Nevada City in the center.

Senum said she received the models this week and already has shared them with Nevada City Fire Chief Sam Goodspeed. Senum will present the models and explain how they will help the city refine its fire mitigation efforts at Wednesday’s council meeting.

“This is a simulation of what we could expect of a fire from the northwest,” Senum said. “It shows heavy fuel load areas where we might see blocked emergency exits. It gives a lot of information on what properties to prioritize with grazing, it helps identify where to do fire breaks to improve emergency evacuation routes. … Areas with heavy fuel loads show up as hot spots on the map. No matter where a fire is coming from, these are the areas we need to focus on.”

Senum said the information will be available to the public as well. (See this story at for a demonstration of a FlameMapper simulation).

GoatFundMe nearing goal

Meanwhile, the goats that have attracted so much attention for Nevada City are on a weather-related hiatus.

“We’re waiting for the rain to pass,” Senum said.

They debuted at Pioneer Park in late January with dozens of onlookers who even sang a song written just for them, “Goat Tell It On the Mountain.”

The goats were grazing an area along Deer Creek to start, one of several Nevada City properties identified as high priority for this winter: Behind Pioneer Park; Deer Creek environs including the water treatment plant; Woods Ravine between Highway 49 and Cement Hill Road; Sugarloaf Mountain; and the old airport. The city then will follow up with hand crews, probably Washington Ridge fire crews.

Nevada City’s GoatFundMe has raised more than $25,000, just $5,000 shy of the city’s goal.

According to Senum, the demonstration has been a success, with much of the neighborhood “thrilled” with the goats’ work and sorry to see them go.

“On Wednesday, we will vote on bids for the rest of the properties,” she said.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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