Gila NF: Johnson Fire Update for June 18, 2021

Location: Johnson Canyon, west of McKenna Park. 3 miles west of Gila Cliff Dwellings, Wilderness Ranger District, Catron County, NM

Start Date: May 20, 2021                                Size: ~81,034 acres                                           Cause: Lightning

Vegetation: Ponderosa Pine and Grass      Total Personnel: 179                                         Containment: 9%

Resources:  3 Interagency Hotshot Crews, 1 handcrew module, 1 Type 2 Initial Attack crew, 7 Type 6 Engines, 4 Water Tenders, and 2 Type 3 Helicopters and 1 Type 2 Helicopter.

Summary:  The southeast corner of the fire remains active as it begins to approach the Gila River. Yesterday, crews conducted burnout operations as they continue to tie the active fire into the old burn scar from last year’s Good Fire. Water drops will continue on the southeast flank of the fire in Water Canyon. Crews on the north side of the fire will continue to scout and prepare lines in the Willow Creek area. The southern portion of the fire is being patrolled by air.

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

Fire Behavior: Moderate, with flanking, 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:  As a reminder “The Celebration Site-Skates area,” Johnson Fire Camp is closed to camping. 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.)

Weather: High pressure will shift westward over the weekend, leading to a warming trend and slight risk of thunderstorms over the Gila Wilderness. Expect isolated showers and thunderstorms over the high mountains Friday afternoon, with the primary threat being gusty outflow winds and dry lightning. Storm coverage will be very light and spotty. Relative humidity will again dip to the lower teens (10-15%) areawide, followed by poor overnight recoveries (25-35%). Temperatures will remain above normal, with the hottest day likely on Sunday.

Air Quality:  Silver City, the Gila Cliff Dwellings, Glenwood, and Cliff, NM are expected to experience “Good” air quality today. Smoke will concentrate in low lying areas in the early mornings and dissipate as the day heats up. 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 (Unit #1074), Cliff (Unit #1054), Glenwood (Unit #1075), T or C (Unit #1036), Socorro (Unit #1035) and Quemado (Unit # 1073) to assess smoke impacts in New Mexico, 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.

Announcement: The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument has re-opened. Drivers in the area are urged to use caution, as large semi-trucks will be moving south along NM Hwy 15 from the Cliff Dwellings to the Johnson Fire Camp on NM Hwy 35.

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