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On the Fireline: Living and Dying with Wildland Firefighters (Fieldwork Encounters and Discoveries)by Matthew Desmond
Synopses & Reviews
Burning to death is a hellish way to die. Yet every year men and women across the country risk their lives for low pay to fight forest fires. Living in remote encampments and isolated from their friends and family, these firefighters stand ready to chase smoke at a moments notice. And when a fire does break out, they face a chaotic inferno armed with only hand tools, hard hats, and little else. So what motivates them to put their lives on the line and face heat so intense it can melt steel?
In this rugged account of a rugged profession, Matthew Desmond explores the heart and soul of the wildland firefighter. Having joined a firecrew in Northern Arizona as a young man, Desmond relates his experiences with intimate knowledge and native ease, adroitly balancing emotion with analysis, action with insight. On the Fireline shows that these firefighters arent the adrenaline junkies or romantic heroes theyre so often portrayed as. Their choice to take on such hazardous work grows naturally from their rural, working-class values, which the Forest Service taps into as it conditions them to risk their lives. Along with exploring how firefighters become acclimated to the hazards of the job, On the Fireline candidly examines the more everyday facets of their lives as wellwe hear their jokes, witness their fights, and observe the close bonds they form while waiting for the next alarm to sound.
Matthew Desmonds revealing and often gripping book is truly one of a kind: an immersion into a dangerous world, a moving portrait of the lives of young people, a sophisticated analysis of a high-risk professionand a captivating read.
In this rugged account of a rugged profession, Matthew Desmond explores the heart and soul of the wildland firefighter. Having joined a firecrew in Northern Arizona as a young man, Desmond relates his experiences with intimate knowledge and native ease, adroitly balancing emotion with analysis and action with insight. On the Fireline shows that these firefighters arent the adrenaline junkies or romantic heroes as theyre so often portrayed.
An immersion into a dangerous world, On the Fireline is also a sophisticated analysis of a high-risk profession—and a captivating read.
“Gripping . . . a masterful account of how young men are able to face down wildfire, and why they volunteer for such an enterprise in the first place.”—David Grazian, Sociological Forum
“Along with the risks and sorrow, Desmond also presents the humor and comaraderie of ordinary men performing extraordinary tasks. . . . A good complement to Norman Maclean's Young Men and Fire. Recommended.”—Library Journal
About the Author
Matthew Desmond is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Table of Contents
Part One History and Place
1. Country Masculinity
2. The Sanctuary of the Forest
Part Two Training and Discipline
3. A Joke between Brothers
4. Real Firefighters Drive Green Engines
5. Learning and Burning
6. Taking the "Wild" Out of Wildfire
Part Three Fire and Death
7. The Beaver Creek Fire
8. The Incompetent Dead
Appendix: Between Native and Alien
What Our Readers Are Saying
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