Burn bosses with the Stanislaus National Forest ignited a prescribed fire this week east of Groveland, south of Buck Meadows and Highway 120 in Mariposa County.

It’s called the China 04 Understory Burn and it’s planned to reduce fuel on 505 acres near forest roads 1S29, 2S28, and 2S17, according to forest staff. The location is about four miles northeast of Greeley Hill.

Understory in a forest is the vegetation between the ground and beneath the main canopy and crowns of the tallest trees. The goal of the understory burn in the Groveland Ranger District is to burn off flammable forest fuels, including ground fuels and ladder fuels.

Burning off grasses and shrubs and other fuels can help reduce the threat of uncontrolled, huge, damaging megablazes like the 2013 Rim Fire that burned more than 400 square miles near the same area, and improve protection of life, property and resources.

The Sierra Nevada is a fire-dependent ecosystem where fire is a critical component in maintaining resilient forests, according to Groveland Ranger District personnel.

Diana Fredlund, a public affairs officer with the Stanislaus National Forest, said fire personnel at the China 04 Understory Burn treated about 70 acres Wednesday and planned to burn about the same Thursday. There were 45 fire personnel assigned to the understory burn on Thursday.

Stanislaus National Forest fire personnel also plan to ignite two prescribed burns along the Highway 108 corridor south of Long Barn and south of Deer Creek this month. Asked why one prescribed fire is burning now east of Groveland but two in the Mi-Wok Ranger District have not been ignited, Fredlund said the China 04 Understory Burn is at a lower elevation than the burn areas off Highway 108.

The two prescribed burn projects in Mi-Wok Ranger District are called the South 108 Underburn and the Crandall Underburn. The South 108 Underburn is planned to reduce fuel on 175 acres near Forest Road 3N90, off North Fork Road, also known as Forest Road 3N01N, south of Long Barn. The Crandall Underburn is planned to reduce fuel on 140 acres near Forest Road 3N24, off Italian Bar Road, also known as Forest Road 2N63, south of Deer Creek.

Fredlund said prescribed burns help improve forest health and vigor, reduce fire hazards, mimic natural processes and maintain ecosystems. They can also reduce effects of large fires by decreasing fuel loading, flame lengths, extreme fire behavior and wildland blaze intensities seen in the 2013 Rim Fire and the 2015 Butte Fire.

Stanislaus National Forest staff want people to remember the China 04 Understory Burn is a planned, prescribed fire. It is also a controlled burn, so people should not call 911 and report it as a wildland fire.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.