Emanuel Ramirez, Daniel McGuire and Michael McGuire operate Fire Prevention Specialists with the help of a herd of goats and sheep. Photo by Pat McNamara

“Why chase a fire when you can prevent one?” This is the mantra of Michael and Dan McGuire, owners of Fire Prevention Specialists. The company, which is licensed and bonded, works with homeowners to create defensible space to mitigate the effects of wildfire.

A Chicago native and former Chicago firefighter, Michael McGuire has spent his career fighting fires. After a work-related injury in 1995 ended his career in Chicago, he and his brother Dan pulled up roots and relocated to Arizona. Michael, who settled in Patagonia in 2001, recently retired as a lieutenant in the Patagonia Fire and Rescue Department (PVFRD) after 20 years. 

During his tenure with the fire department, he volunteered as a wildlands firefighter, traveling all over the west. In 2014 he also started work for the non-profit organization Baptist Child and Family Services, based in Texas, coordinating and helping unaccompanied children at the border or wherever there is a natural disaster. He still is a reservist with PVFRD and on the roster as needed for that organization. 

2022 found Michael and Dan, also a volunteer firefighter for Patagonia, looking for a way to prevent rather than ‘chase’ fires. With the goal of staying close to home, the brothers started their business, Fire Prevention Specialists, with the help of some goats, some sheep, and livestock manager Emmanuel Ramirez. They provide temporary fencing to keep the animals confined to the designated clearing area. 

It takes 20 goats and/or sheep only two and a half days to clear out an acre. The McGuires have enough animals available to handle from one to a hundred acres if needed. Along with the goats and sheep, the business is also fully equipped with a truck and necessary equipment to clear out larger trees and brush that are too large for the animals to handle.

Fire Prevention Specialists offer its services statewide. They also offer a Fire Wise program, which is a community-based effort. This program was started in the west ten years ago and is now mandated by some insurance companies. Many HOAs have begun to require this program in their communities, as well. Local, state, federal and tribal lands have now signed on and the Fire Wise program continues to grow with more businesses like the McGuires’ coming on board. With climate change and fires becoming more frequent and destructive, prevention is more imperative than ever.

In the desert, the invasive buffelgrass has flourished and is causing environmental destruction as well as being a fire hazard. Removing it by hand is very labor intensive, so the goats and sheep are the answer to its eradication. This is another example of the positive impact of the natural, environmentally friendly, animal-based approach. 

Customers have been pleased with the results of the goats’ clearing efforts. A recent client said that he used the goats to clear his land, especially along his fence line and it now “looks like a golf course.”

As the climate gets hotter and drier, fire prevention in the west is becoming much more imperative for landowners. Businesses such as Fire Prevention Specialists will become even more essential to mitigate the destruction of wildland fires. The McGuires have demonstrated that their animal herds are a valuable tool in the effort to remove unwanted vegetation in an environmentally friendly way. As their website states, “It does not matter how dense the fuel load, it’s no match for a herd of hungry goats and sheep.”

For more information about Fire Prevention Specialists, visit www.firepreventionspecialists.com