Incident 395

Fiction - Thriller - Environmental
315 Pages
Reviewed on 12/02/2022
Buy on Amazon

Author Biography

I’ve always been fascinated with the American West. The enormity and its haunting grandeur. The notion of open spaces and indomitable spirits. It’s a romantic construct that’s rapidly changing, yet it’s still a fitting backdrop for modern stories of danger, hope and love.

Years ago my younger son and I rented a small cabin in the high Cascades for a fishing getaway. While there, an enormous wildfire broke out about 60 miles away. Although we were in no danger, the old road by our cabin happened to be the only way to bring firefighting equipment to the fire location. From our little front porch we watched an endless stream of trucks, fire engines, bulldozers on flatbed trailers, and buses full of firefighters roll toward the fire, day after day. Helicopters and air tankers cut through the skies above. I began to think, “What happens to people in very remote locations? How does anyone warn them, find them, bring them to safety?” That was the generative point for Incident 395.

Part family saga, part search for belonging, this wild, true-grit story is set during an out-of-control wildfire—a destructive environmental force that’s become an indelible fact of modern life, especially in the West. Four years of research gave me a deep appreciation of the complex interactions that take place during a major wildfire response and helps give Incident 395 its authenticity.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Shrabastee Chakraborty for Readers' Favorite

A dry spell for months on end, dangerously low humidity levels, and a gradual build-up of flammable duff – it was the perfect recipe for a disaster. A severe thunderstorm appeared, and the countless ground strikes provided the final nail in the coffin. A wildfire reared its blazing head in Southern Oregon. Although different forces joined hands, they could not tame the unpredictable flames of what they dubbed the Tincup fire. Moreover, a twelve-year-old blind girl was stranded in the wilderness with her father. Could they rescue the duo through the roaring flames? Find out in Incident 395, a novel by John Riha.

Like a smoldering fire that goes unnoticed for days before turning into a fully-fledged wildfire, the novel slowly gathered steam before going full throttle. The initial pages were full of foreboding, making us wait with bated breath for some terrible future. Once the storyline started to unravel in earnest, the situation escalated in the blink of an eye. The background Riha incorporated provided insight into the science of wildfires. It enriched my knowledge and served as an omen of the impending disaster. The feeling of doom intensified with every page, making me realize that despite cutting-edge technologies, men were mere playthings in front of nature. Fighting the fiercest, most destructive force of nature was like fighting a many-headed demon, one that could obliterate everything in its path. Yet, the coordinated efforts from every organization did wonders. The brave rappellers and firefighters demanded my respect. At the same time, I rooted for little Kal. Her helplessness and futile efforts to locate her father kept haunting me. I admired her grit, indomitable spirit, and awe-inspiring sense of self-sufficiency. I recommend Incident 395 to anyone who loves ecological thrillers and survival stories.

Alex Ndirangu

It has been over three months since the last raindrop fell in southwestern Oregon. But now, a storm approaches. However, this is not just any storm; this is a dry storm that has the potential to unleash hundreds of lightning strikes on the ground. These parts have been seemingly lucky not to suffer yet the fate that has beset other parts of the Northwest, where enormous wildfires ravaged parts of Minnesota, Carolina, New Mexico, and Florida. But Oregon's seeming luck will soon run out. In the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, where skeletal forests attest to the disaster that once ravaged the land, flames burst out. Worse, Kal, an 11-year-old blind girl, and her father recently embarked on adventure miles deep into the wilderness where danger lurks. There will be helicopters in the skies, and even brave professionals who will go to great depths to stop this disaster. But will they save Kal and her father? Pick up a copy of Incident 395 by John Riha to find out.

Incident 395 draws your attention right from the first page. John Riha immerses you in the plot through well-crafted setting descriptions. You will visualize the fresh and clean river under the bright morning sky. You will also enjoy watching a breathtaking scene of two parrots chasing each other beneath the tree canopy and seeing an osprey dive deep into the river. You will have favorite characters for whom you will be praying that they won't come to harm. My favorite character was Kal. Despite being blind, Kal is a resilient young mind whose love for her dad and her family permeates her every word. I found it sweet how Kal felt safe now that her father was back in town. These two are inseparable. They have such a good vibe together. Incident 395 comes at a time when wildfires have become more common than even earthquakes and tsunamis. In this book, you will learn more about climate change and how it has affected our world in recent years.

Bryone Peters

Incident 395 by John Riha is a page-turner based on the real fear and dangers of an intense fire. It is brilliant because the plot originates from the real-life experiences of many of the main characters. The antagonist is a fire - later classified as a Type 2 Incident. John Riha provides a first-hand account of the job of the brave rappellers and what they face when trying to assist in stopping the spread of a fire. In this story, a blind eleven-year-old girl and her father are in the path of a spreading fire. They are blissfully hiking in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness before they realize the danger. The rappellers engage in a unique but daring rescue mission to save them. Will the rappellers reach them before the fire does?

The plot of Incident 395 by John Riha is dramatic and suspenseful. It takes place in the Siskiyou Mountain range. The story shows the different viewpoints involved. One is that of the commander at the Tincup Fire campsite. Another side is that of the rappellers and the conflict and emotional turmoil that they may face. There is also the viewpoint of the distraught mother who is worried about her child. In addition, the blind daughter's anguish is equally terrifying. For me, these moments were the most poignant. The dialogue is realistic and understandable. The end of the book contains a glossary of the terms explaining all the acronyms and abbreviations used. I thought the factual content on the distinct fire aspects was excellent.


I loved the story! I know the story is fiction, but it really hit home for me. I live in Southern Oregon and every summer we have to deal with hot dry conditions that cause hundreds of wildfire. I have a go-bag ready in case we are ordered to evacuate. It’s so scary real. So often we overlook all the heroic folks who risk their lives fighting wildfires. I highly recommend ‘Incident 395’ most of the characters in the story have one thing in common - true grit!