First Person: How the Wallow Fire Affects a Utahan

It’s been said that no man is an island, that every action causes a cosmic ripple that’s felt by others. The Wallow fire in Arizona upholds that concept, as smoke spreads into Colorado, Utah and beyond, producing consequences for those outside the immediate fire area.

Wallow fire effects on my physical well-being

I go to bed at night just to wake up coughing. With my sleep disrupted, I wonder what’s going on. Is some unusual flower blooming in Utah County, Utah, that’s causing my histamine levels to rise? I don’t usually have seasonal allergies this bad in June. I start on an over-the-counter allergy pill, which escalates to an allergy pill during the day and an asthma pill at night. I think that in a few days the offending plant will finish its life cycle and die.

The sky to the north looks clear with puffy clouds. Nothing to worry about … until I read the Denver Post headline: “Smoke from Arizona fire blanketing Front Range.” That’s when I realize the problem isn’t a flower, but it’s the Wallow fire that’s impacting my lungs. The article quotes meteorologist Kyle Fredin, “We should be seeing some cleaner air moving into Colorado and Utah (by today).”

Looking to the south, I see a yellow-colored, thin haze that resembles a distant dust storm on the horizon. I know that despite what Fredin says, pollutants from the Wallow fire are still moving my way, making it hard to breathe. A question nags at me, “If they can’t contain the fire quickly, will the pharmacies run out of asthma medication?” They did several years ago; I had to drive out of the area in order to breathe.

Wallow fire effects on my state of mind

I type the words “Wallow fire” into a Yahoo! search box and see page after page of headlines. Then I read a Deseret News article by Ladd Brubaker, which says, “… five Utah wildfire crews … are fighting the massive 400,000-acre Wallow Fire in southeastern Arizona….”

My heart sinks. Over the years, I’ve known several Utah firefighters and I understand how hard it is on their families to have their loved ones in dangerous situations. The families’ worries become my worries as I think about the horror stories of firefighters killed in the line of duty from fires that raged like a devouring beast.

I’m not sure which worry is worse … the one about firefighters’ lives, or the one that medications might become unavailable and I’ll struggle to breathe.

It’s true that I’m not dealing with the staggering fear that’s taking place for those nearest the Wallow fire, but the ripples from it have still moved into my life. In a childlike reaction, I cross my fingers for luck for the Utahans fighting the fire. Then I become an adult once again. I check that I have enough medication on hand if the air quality gets worse, and say a prayer for the people of Arizona and the emergency personnel fighting the Wallow wildfire.


Nathan Gonzalez, “Arizona’s Wallow Fire, an FAQ,”

“KSL Home Page,”