Gila NF: Johnson Fire Update for June 2, 2021

Location: Johnson Canyon, west of McKenna Park. 11 miles west of Gila Cliff Dwellings, Wilderness Ranger District, Catron County, NM

Start Date: May 20, 2021                                              Size: ~37,200                                    Cause: Lightning

Vegetation: Ponderosa Pine and Grass

Resources: Three Interagency Hotshot Crew, one ten-person Hand crew, three ten-person Wildfire Modules, three Type 3 Engines, two Type 6 Engine, two Water Tender, and two Type 3 Helicopters including a short haul medical helicopter.

Summary: The Johnson Fire is approximately 37,200 acres and is burning on National Forest System lands on the Wilderness Ranger District, Gila National Forest. The suppression strategy for this fire is confine and contain. Yesterday light rain fell over the fire slowing fire activity. Crews continued to patrol along the West Fork Trail #151 and monitored fire behavior as it moved into last year’s Cub Fire scar.  Firefighters completed control line preparation work in the EE Canyon area. The structure protection group continued brush removal around structures and positioned hose lays and pumps around the Gila Cliff Dwellings Contact Center. Today firefighters will monitor fire activity along the western edge of the fire and continue structure protection in the White Creek Cabin area.  As final preparations of the firelines in EE Canyon continues, fire managers will assess fire behavior and weather conditions to seek opportunities for future ignition operations.  Structure protection work continues around the Gila Cliff Dwellings Visitor Center area.  Additionally, cultural resource specialists will survey cultural and archaeological sites to determine protection needs. 

Objectives: Provide for public and firefighter safety and allow fire to play its natural role on the landscape. Values at risk are the White Creek Cabin and sensitive aquatic species in the Gila Wilderness.

Safety: Due to hazardous fire conditions in the area, the West Fork Gila River trail network is CLOSED to visitor use until further notice. Visitors are warned to keep off these trails for their personal safety and to not impede the work of firefighters managing the fire. The Middle Fork of the Gila River Trail #157 is open to DAY-USE ONLY.  For further information please call 575-536-2250 (M-F 8:00 – 4:00 p.m.) or 575-519-0103 (any time before 9:00 p.m.)

Weather: Showers and thunderstorms will occur in the vicinity of fire this afternoon. This will continue into the early evening hours before diminishing.  Winds will be variable and light except during thunderstorms where gusty and erratic winds can be expected.  Each day this week, clouds should increase and produce storms near the fire.   A drying trend looks to begin by Sunday with much warmer and drier conditions next week. 

Smoke/Air Quality: Moderate smoke impacts may be observed in low lying areas overnight, with periods of light to moderate smoke during the day. The New Mexico Department of Health site also known as 5-3-1, has good information and guidance on mitigating your smoke exposure. Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory problems are encouraged to take precautionary measures by staying inside during heavy smoke periods and avoiding outdoor activities. Smoke will visible from NM Highway 15, NM Hwy 35, and US Highway 180, and on the trail system. Smoke monitors have been placed at the Wilderness Ranger District (Unit #1073), Lake Roberts (Unit #1074) and the Gila Center (Unit #1075) to assess smoke impacts, and can be viewed at

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