Wildfire by Rodman Philbrick


by Rodman Philbrick

Wildfire is a Junior Fiction Maine Student Book Award selection for 2020-2021. You will see the names of towns that are familiar to you such as Skowhegan, Baxter State Park, Wells, Bar Harbor, etc.

Although the novel is current realistic fiction, the author, who lives in Maine and Florida, based this suspenseful page-turner on the devastating Great Fire of Maine in 1947 which burned homes, towns, and forests on coastal Maine.

Sam, a 12-year-old boy from Wells, Maine, whose Dad died in Afghanistan and whose Mom is in rehab due to a prescribed drug that she became dependent upon, is sent to a summer camp deep in the forests of northern Maine.

A wildfire, which has engulfed 15,000 acres of dry timberland in just 2 days, is getting worse and heading for his camp. All campers and counselors are evacuated to a bus. Sam runs back to his room to get his phone. When he returns outside, there is so much dense smoke that he is unable to find the bus. He is lost and alone.


Roaming the forest with his lungs full of smoke and his eyes parched with pain, he finds a temporary abandoned shelter and a Korean War Era Jeep. The Jeep becomes a major player in Wildfire.

Traveling by Jeep, Sam meets a 14-year-old girl, Delphy, from another summer camp who likewise missed a bus evacuation because she was in the woods waiting to meet someone she met online.

Together, Sam and Delphy meet with terrifying obstacles in this intense novel. The wisdom Sam remembers from his father on their hiking trips and the scientific knowledge that Delphy has is what they rely on from one obstacle to another.

They also witnessed the arsonists setting some of the fires… and in turn, the arsonists witnessed them!  Sam and Delphy are desperate to escape both the raging, fast-moving fire and the arsonists.

Wildfire is full of factual information and wisdom within the story that can be helpful to you or anyone who is lost in the forest and/or trying to flee a forest fire. Additionally, at the end of the book, there is a list of “Survival Tips” to help you and your family plan your escape and help you survive a forest fire.

I will leave you with just a bit of Sam’s Dad’s wisdom.  “…determine which way is north. If the sun is low in the sky and you know it’s afternoon, then put the sun on your left-hand side and you’ll be facing north”. What a super reminder!

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