Gila NF: Johnson Fire Update for June 20, 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: ~84,873 acres                                           Cause: Lightning

Vegetation: Ponderosa Pine and Grass      Total Personnel: 201                                        Containment: 11%

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

Summary:  Crews on the northwest side of the fire will continue to improve lines along the Iron Creek Mesa Trail, and scout and assess structures in the Willow Creek area. The northern side of the fire is being monitored by horseback. The southeast flank along Hell and Water Canyons are being checked with helicopter bucket drops. This flank of the fire remains active as it approaches the Gila River. The southern flank of the fire is being monitored by air. Active backing fire behavior was observed southwest of the Mogollon Baldy lookout.

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: Another hot day is expected today. Isolated afternoon thunderstorms could occur, which would bring chances of dry lightning and gusty, erratic outflow winds. There is a moderate to high potential for large plume dominated fire growth.

Air Quality:  T or C should be clear today. The US Highway 180 corridor will see moderate smoke today through Monday morning. Silver City may get smoke overnight into Monday morning. 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: If you visit the Gila National Forest, remember that fire danger is very high and Stage 1 Fire Restrictions are in effect. For detailed information, visit

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