Alan Benedict is the doctor in Piedmont, Arizona, to whom the townspeople take the returned space capsule. He decides to open the capsule and so releases the fatal bacteria. He dies at his desk.
Charles Burton is a pathologist from Houston who is one of the Wildfire team of scientists. He is referred to as “sloppy” and “impulsive,” and is the opposite of the methodical Stone, who does not much like him. Burton is known as “the Stumbler” for his habit of falling over his own untied shoelaces as well as his ability to make scientific discoveries almost by accident.
Lieutenant Edgar Comroe
Lieutenant Edgar Comroe is the control officer at Mission Control for Project Scoop at Vandenberg Air Force Base. He does not like the job and the nights are dull. He uses the time to catch up on his scientific reading. It is Comroe who takes the call from the two army men in Piedmont that sets the action in motion. Comroe reports the matter to his superior officer, Major Manchek.
Private Lewis Crane
Private Lewis Crane is an electronics technician. He drives with Lieutenant Roger Shawn from Vandenberg Air Force Base to Piedmont, Arizona, to pick up the Scoop satellite. He dies quickly when infected by the bacteria.
Mark Hall is a surgeon and a member of the Wildfire scientific team. He was included in the team because he is single and is therefore, according to the Odd Man hypothesis, likely to the most reliable decision-maker in the group. He is given final responsibility of allowing a self-destruct atomic explosion at the Flatrock secret lab or aborting it. Hall is known at his hospital for being “a swift, quick-tempered, and unpredictable surgeon” (p. 56). When he first joined the Wildfire team he did not take it seriously and never believed that such an emergency could happen. He did not even bother to read the files he was given to keep up on the news about the project. In the end, however, Hall acts heroically to stop the atomic detonation that is imminent following the contamination of the lab.
Peter Jackson is a sixty-nine-year-old man from Piedmont who is the sole adult survivor of the bacteria. He is taken to the Wildfire Project headquarters at Flatrock, Nevada where he is examined by Hall. Jackson is a truculent individual who talks in a rambling kind of way. He has been suffering from a bleeding ulcer for over two years but refuses to modify his diet to heal it. Instead, he has been treating himself with aspirin and the alcoholic drink, Sterno, which has made his blood highly acidic. This provides Hall with a clue as to why Jackson was not affected by the Andromeda bacteria.
Jaggers is a technician, known to be good at his job, which is reconnaissance interpretation. He is brought in by Manchek to interpret the pictures taken by the Scavenger jet in its flyby of Piedmont immediately after the disaster became known.
Rudolph Karp was a Hungarian-born biochemist who emigrated to the United States. He claimed to have discovered bacteria in meteorites, but few scientists took him seriously.
Kirke is an anthropologist at Yale University. He is part of the Wildfire Project, but illness prevents him from joining the other scientists.
Peter Leavitt is a clinical microbiologist and a member of the Wildfire team. He is head of bacteriology at the same hospital where Hall works. Leavitt has specialist knowledge of infectious diseases, particularly regarding parasites, and he has done research all around the world. Leavitt is a pessimistic man, described as “irritable, grumbling, heavyset” (p. 54), but he is also “thoughtful, imaginative, and not afraid to think daringly” (p. 54). Leavitt also suffers from epilepsy, but he does not disclose this to his employers or to the Wildfire project. When he has some warning signs about a possible epileptic seizure, he knows he should inform Stone but decides not to. He knows this would end his involvement in Wildfire and fears it would also result in the loss of his job at the hospital. Major Arthur Manchek
Major Arthur Manchek is an engineer who is bored by his administrative work at Vandenberg Air Force Base. When he learns what has happened at Piedmont he declares a state of emergency, which means that no one is allowed to leave the base. He also contacts Project Wildfire.
Jamie Ritter is the two-month-old baby who survives the deadly incident in Piedmont.
Robertson is the head of the President’s Science Advisory Committee. He explains to Stone why the president’s decision not to destroy Piedmont with an atomic bomb.
Lieutenant Roger Shawn
Lieutenant Roger Shawn, along with Private Crane, drives from Vandenberg Air Force Base to Piedmont, Arizona, to locate and retrieve the Scoop satellite. He dies as soon as he is exposed to the virus. Mission Control picks up his final transmission and is alerted to the unfolding catastrophe.
Dr. Smithson is the chief medical officer of the Arizona state patrol. He supplies Hall with the details of the medical history of the dead patrolman, Willis.
Jeremy Stone is a professor of bacteriology at Stanford University. He is thirty-six years old and already has had a brilliant career. He won the Nobel Prize for work he did in his spare time when he was a law student at Michigan. He is known not only for his brilliance but also for the range of his interests and his amazing memory. He is also known for his impatience, “the feeling he conveyed to everyone around him that they were wasting his time” (p. 44). For this reason Stone is not popular with his colleagues. He has also been married four times. It is Stone who is responsible, through his political contacts, for advocating the Wildfire project. The fact that the research goes ahead and the secret facility is built in Flatrock, Nevada, is largely due to Stone. He believes there is a strong possibility that alien organisms could contaminate a returning satellite such as Scoop. Martin Willis
Martin Willis is an Arizona highway patrol officer who drives through Piedmont on the night of the disaster. He later goes insane and kills several people in a diner south of Flagstaff.
Samuel “Gunner” Wilson
Samuel “Gunner” Wilson flies his Scavenger jet over Piedmont and takes pictures of the scene in the immediate aftermath of the deaths there.