You are here: HomeNewsFront Page News ArticlesResidents Anxiously Awaiting 'Monsoons'

Residents Anxiously Awaiting 'Monsoons'

By Jim Owen

Despite some rain last week, and scattered showers the past couple of days, authorities say Grant County remains in "extreme drought" conditions.

Dry grasses and other vegetation are ripe for wildfire, as evidenced by the Signal Fire in the Gila National Forest and other recent blazes in the county. The danger is not expected to decrease until the summer "monsoon" season, which usually begins in late June or early July.

May is typically the driest month in southwest New Mexico, so residents welcomed the rain that some parts of the county received during the past week. However, the benefits of precipitation this time of year are short-lived, as the hot sun and gusty winds quickly sap the moisture.


According to a NASA report, a rain-producing El NiÒo weather pattern developing in the Pacific Ocean could be the germination of this year's monsoons in the Southwest. Meteorologists suggest that the situation is similar to conditions in May 1997, one of the wettest years in recent history. (For more information, visit http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=83653&src=eoa-iotd.

Grant County Fire Chief Randy Villa pointed out that predicting the onset and intensity of the rainy season is difficult.

"They can't pinpoint exactly when it will come," he said, explaining that sometimes the monsoons arrive as late as August. In some years, when rainfall is infrequent or spotty, the high fire risk continues into the fall.

Villa referred to a recent government report indicating that "significant wildfire activity is expected by the end of May" in southwest New Mexico. Forecasters predict "above-normal wildfire potential in June and July," with "normal" potential in the Gila National Forest.

The greatest fire threat is in the county's lower-elevation areas, including the grasslands, valleys and foothills. That is where the driest fuels, and most of the population, are found. The situation is not much better in the forest, where officials rate the fire danger as "very high."

Gabe Holguin, the Gila's fire officer, told Grant County commissioners last week that trees in the forest are "really dry." He reported that parts of the Burro Mountains, southwest of Silver City, are particularly vulnerable to wildfire. There could be "a lot of fires" this year, Holguin warned.

The problem with thunderstorms in May and early June is that they sometimes feature lightning with little or no rain. That poses a fire risk, as does increased visitation of the forest by campers and hikers in the spring.

Villa and Holguin noted that last year's monsoons caused the growth of tall grasses, which are now dry and extremely receptive to fire. A tiny spark can start a huge blaze, especially in windy conditions.

"What the county can do, and has done, is make sure our fire restrictions and fireworks ban are in place," Villa told the Beat. He advised residents and visitors to check with the appropriate local, state or federal agency regarding fire restrictions before engaging in any activity that could spark a blaze.

The County Commission recently enacted an ordinance allowing the county manager or the fire management officer to place temporary bans on outdoor burning, without requiring commission action each time. The ordinance creates a process similar to that in the town of Silver City, according to Acting County Manager Abigail Robinson. Campfires in the national forest are limited to developed campgrounds. Fire restrictions also are in place on state-owned lands.

Such bans, while difficult to enforce, raise awareness about the danger. Nearly every year in Grant County, people accidentally start fires by burning trash, tossing cigarettes, driving vehicles on dry grasses, throwing hot charcoal onto the ground, and using tools and equipment that throw sparks.

The forecast offers little encouragement, with no chance of precipitation for at least the next week. Daytime high temperatures will be in the 80s and 90s.

It could be weeks before the hopes and prayers of ranchers, farmers, gardeners and others are realized. In the meantime, they are keeping their eyes to the sky in search of any sign of rain.


Join GCB Three Times Weekly Updates

Welcome to Three Times Weekly Updates! You will be subscribed to email notifications with links to recently posted articles.
You can unsubscribe anytime. We never share or rent your email to anyone.

Fire Alerts

Editor's Note

Twice lately, someone has used one of MY photos, TAKEN by ME, without attribution or payment to me or the Beat. Remember that ALL PHOTOS ON THE SITE ARE COPYRIGHTED BY THE PHOTOGRAPHER. All content is also automatically copyrighted to the creator, when it is posted. 

For all you non-profits out there who hold regular fundraisers and want to thank your supporters, the Beat has a new flat rate of $20 plus GRT for Thank You Ads, which are posted under Community. Thanks for supporting the Beat.

The Beat is very pleased and excited to announce that it has an intern, Alexis Rico, who is studying journalism at New Mexico State University. Please welcome her. We will be experimenting together on some new ways to provide the news to you. We look forward to your comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Thanks for being a Beat reader!

The Beat thanks all of you who have become friends of the Beat by sponsoring pages.

We have added a new category under Sponsors on the menu—Local businesses. You and your business can benefit from the exposure by contacting the Beat at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Someone will contact you for an interview and to take photos. The cost for the sponsorship is $100, and you can continue the relationship by advertising your business for a longer term. The longer the term, the better the discount you receive.

The Beat is now posting legal notices for area governmental agencies. Check under the menu item Community to find Legals for what's happening in the area in the way of meetings and other legal notices.

You may have noticed a blue button on the upper left side of most pages. It says Sponsor GCBTo help defray ever-increasing costs of the Beat and to prevent the requirement for paid subscriptions, the Beat is asking you to choose an amount you want to pay on a one-time or regular basis to SPONSOR a page or feature that you rely on. 

If you subscribe to the Join GCB Three Times Weekly Updates option on the left side of this page, you will be subscribed to email notifications with links to recently posted articles.

Comics are now available. As the editor, I chose my favorites first--B.C. and Wizard of Id. The Beat is seeking sponsors for these comics and for your favorites, too. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  for rates. 

Check Out Classifieds.

It's really easy to check to see if there's a classified ad. Just click on Classifieds in the blue menu and the page will open letting you know if there is a classified ad. Remember that your buying classified ads gives you a wide readership, as well as supporting the Beat.

Post YOURS for quick results!

Consider the Beat your DAILY newspaper for up-to-date information about Grant County. It's at your fingertips! One Click to Local News.

Thanks for your support for and your readership of Grant County's online news source—www.grantcountybeat.com.

Go to top