Gila NF: Johnson Fire Update for June 13, 2021

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Visit the New Mexico Fire Information website at


Fire Phone 575-519-0103


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: ~ 63,551                                         Cause:  Lightning   

Vegetation: Ponderosa Pine and Grass                                 Total Personnel: 158                             Containment:  11%

RESOURCES: Two Interagency Hotshot Crews, one twelve-person hand crew, one ten-person Wildfire Module, one twenty-person Initial Attack crew, four Type 3 Engines, three Type 6 Engines, four Water Tenders, two Type 3 Helicopters which includes short haul medical equipment and one Type 2 Helicopters.

SUMMARY: The Johnson Fire is approximately 63,551 acres and is burning in the Gila Wilderness on the Gila National Forest. The acreage is the most accurate information taken from an infrared (IR) flight on Saturday evening. The suppression strategy for this fire is confine and contain.  In the evening hours the fire will appear both larger and closer than it is due to the inability to reference its size to any physical landmarks. Yesterday’s continued hot and dry conditions brought active burning activities to the northwest corner of the fire as it moved into the upper reaches of Gobbler Canyon and up toward Mogollon Baldy Lookout. Firefighters began suppression activities on the Cross Fire, a new start detected north of the main fire. Crews continued to hold and secure control lines in White Rocks Canyon as the fire moved toward the West Fork of the Gila River.  Fire growth occurred on the northern edge in Raw Meat Canyon and in the Miller Springs Cabin area.  Helicopter bucket drops from Snow Lake were used to assist structure protection around Mogollon Baldy Lookout tower and cabin. Last night’s burn out operations around Mogollon Baldy Lookout were successful. Today mop up operations will continue on the Cross Fire.  Crews will be inserted into the Raw Meat Canyon area to hold the fire from moving north of the West Fork of the Gila River.  Firefighters will monitor White Rocks Canyon to secure control lines.  The southern and western portions of the fire will again be monitored by air operations. 

INCIDENT OBJECTIVES:  Provide for public and firefighter safety and allow fire to play its natural role on the landscape. Utilize Minimum Impact Suppression Techniques. Ensure information is accurate and timely regarding closures and planned fire operations. Values at risk are Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, White Creek Cabin, and sensitive aquatic species in the Gila Wilderness.

FIRE BEHAVIOR: Active flanking with creeping and backing.  

CLOSURES:  Due to hazardous fire conditions in the Johnson Fire area, an Emergency Area Closure order has been issued by the Gila National Forest for public health and safety. A large portion of the Gila Wilderness is CLOSED.  For a copy of the order and maps see: Inciweb:   The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument remains CLOSED, and the closure shall remain in effect until rescinded.  The Cliff Dwellings is closed while fire managers prepare for a burn-out operation for the Johnson Fire. Light Feather and Jordan Hot Springs, along with the Middle Fork Trailhead, are also included in this closure.  For further information call 575-536-2250 (M-F 8:00 – 4:00 p.m.) or 575-519-0103 (any time before 7:00 p.m.)  As a reminder “The Celebration Site-Skates area,” Johnson Fire Camp is closed to camping.

WEATHER: Little change over the coming days with temperatures remaining hot and relative humidity falling to the single digit range.  Today, mostly sunny with isolated thunderstorms after 12:00.  Chance of precipitation 10%.  Threat from the thunderstorms will be gusty winds and dry lightning.  Winds 7 to 14 mph, gusts to 22 mph, minimum relative humidity 9 to 11%.

 AIR QUALITY:  Silver City and Cliff, NM are expected to experience “Good” air quality today. However, in Cliff, NM area smoke may drift in throughout the day.  The Gila Cliff Dwellings area and Glenwood, NM will see poor smoke dispersal in the morning and is expected to stay in the “Moderate” level throughout the day. The smoke monitor from the Wilderness Ranger District has been moved to Quemado, NM to monitor smoke levels in the northern portions of the Gila National Forest. Smoke from the Johnson Fire will be visible from NM Highway 15, NM Hwy 35, and US Highway 180. Smoke monitors have been placed at  Gila Center (Unit #1076), Silver City, NM (Unit #1074), Cliff, NM (Unit #1054) and Glenwood, NM (Unit #1075), to assess smoke impacts, and can be viewed at

Please see the New Mexico Department of Health site also known as 5-3-1, for 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.

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