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Swedes develop fireproof goat

Arsonists frustrated by flame-retardant coating

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The good burghers of Gavle in Sweden are celebrating the survival of their traditional Xmas straw goat - habitually targeted by arsonists.

According to the BBC, the 13m caprine giant has in the past been torched on 22 occasions, as well as succumbing to ram-raid attack and general assault. In 2005, for example, "arsonists dressed as Santa Claus and the Gingerbread Man burned the goat to the ground".

Last year, however, the authorities applied a flame-retardant coating which seems to have done the trick. Anna Oestman of the city's aptly-named goat committee explained: "If the Gavle goat hadn't been impregnated with flame-resistant chemicals, we would have been left with a black skeleton."

The Gavle goat tradition dates back to 1966 when the first monster was wheeled into the central square. Goats are apparently close to Swedes' hearts, since they used to deliver presents before Santa Claus muscled in on their territory.

The flameproof goat has now been put into storage at a secret location for redeployment in 2007. ®

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