We're sending out some smoke signals before you see smoke: Mount Burdell will catch fire at some point next week.
The Marin County Open Space mailed postcards last week to 300 property owners who live within 1,000 feet of the Mount Burdell Preserve informing them of a controlled burn scheduled the week of July 9. The date hasn't been pinpointed because it depends on weather conditions. Large signs have also been posted at the trailheads with a map highlighting the area along the Cobblestone Fire Road above Hidden Lake to be burned.
We hiked up to the area highlighted on the map. It appears the Open Space district has already prepared the area with fire breaks. The fire should consume approximately two acres and last only a few hours.
The district, working in conjunction with the Marin County Fire Department, periodically conducts controlled burns in open spaces throughout Marin.
We're telling you with plenty of advance notice because last yea, a controlled burn prompted lots of 911 calls because people were unaware of the scheduled fire that residents many miles away could see high above the hills of Ignacio. People who live close to the mountain get the mailer, but others need to hear about it from word of mouth or the media.
Why a controlled burn? Casual observers hiking along the Mount Burdell fire roads might not notice the difference between all the various grasses growing on the golden hills. The burn is focusing on areas where the non-native barbed goatgrass is proliferating in the dry serpentine soils above Hidden Lake on either side of the Cobblestone Fire Road.
The grazing cattle do not consume the barbed goatgrass and therefore it stands alone ready to take over the golden hillsides. Small patches of this grass are eradicated by controlled burns.
If left alone, the Universtiy of California Cooperative Extention mentions an entire pasture can be infected with the grass within three years. A prescribed burn is the cost effective and will efficiently manage the goatgrass population in this steep meadow area.
Keep your eye out for the smoke, and if you're a hiker be aware that you might not be allowed in that area of the mountain on the burn day.