Firefighters scorch Terra Linda hillside in controlled burn

About 40 firefighters scorched a Terra Linda hillside Thursday morning as part of a controlled burn aimed at containing an invasive weed.

The burn began at 9 a.m. and lasted until about 10:30 a.m., singeing approximately nine acres of barbed goatgrass on the Terra Linda/Sleepy Hollow Preserve at the end of Montecillo Road, said Mischon Martin, a natural resources program manager for the Marin County Open Space District.

“The best way to eradicate this grass is controlled burning,” Martin said Thursday afternoon at the burn site, where firefighters from the Marin County Fire Department, as well as San Rafael, Larkspur, Novato and other agencies were spraying the blackened earth with water and overturning vegetation.

“We’re mopping up,” San Rafael fire Capt. Kyle Hamilton said. “We won’t leave this until we’re absolutely sure there’s no chance of rekindle.”

Hamilton added that the burn provided valuable training for new firefighters.

The Marin County Open Space District and the fire departments collaborated on the project to control the goatgrass, a non-native noxious weed. This is the sixth year that the agencies have conducted controlled burns in the open space preserve, Martin said.
Flames reached 4 to 5 feet on Thursday, filling the air with smoke. By about 2 p.m., virtually no scent remained.

At least one neighbor expressed concern earlier this week about effects on air quality in the neighborhood, but only enthusiastic residents showed up Thursday to snap photographs, Martin said. She added that organizers made sure weather conditions were safe and in compliance with Bay Area Air Quality Management District regulations before starting the burn.

“The Marin County Fire Department will only conduct controlled burns on days that have not been designated as ‘Spare the Air’ days,” the open space district reported in a document released before the burn. “In addition, Open Space District staff and volunteer ‘smoke monitors’ will … observe smoke behavior from nearby hilltops. If the smoke begins to move in the wrong direction, the project will be stopped.”

s/cc/Jessica Bernstein-Wax

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