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 moment's 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 aren't the adrenaline junkies or romantic heroes they're 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 well--we hear their jokes, witness their fights, and observe the close bonds they form while waiting for the next alarm to sound.
Matthew Desmond's 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 profession--and a captivating read.
and#8220;Rich in gritty detail, Matthew Desmondand#8217;s sociological study of a firecrew is a welcome addition to the literature of wildfire. His four years on a backcountry Forest Service crew provide authentic materialand#8212;sometimes startlingly soand#8212;for his observations. If you want a look behind the flames to see what drives these people to come back year after blistering year then read this book.and#8221;
and#8220;On the Fireline is a riveting account of firemen of the U.S. Forest Service tackling wildland fires, as well as a detailed chronicle of the training, preparation, and bonhomie of depot life. By exploring how joining a firecrew matches, confirms, and extends the values of the rural culture within which the recruits grew up, Desmond offers a unique perspective on the social and psychological motivations for firefighting. The richness of the data he uncovers and his arresting style of presentation make this a distinctive and evocative work.and#8221;
and#8220;In recent years, ethnographers have tried to face up to the Bourdieuian challenge of showing how aspects of culture are rooted in daily practices and bodies. In this beautifully written work of participant observation, Matthew Desmond takes us into the world of wildland firefighters to help us better understand the dynamics of dangerous organizations and the workers who hold the line.and#160;At the same time, he moves ethnography forward: rather than following the all too common procedure of asserting the existence of knowledges that and#8216;go without sayingand#8217; for his subjects, Desmond shows in detail how habitus actually operates in everyday life.and#8221;
"Along with the risks and sorrow, D Library Journal
"The book is beautifully written and theoretically sophisticated with truly surprising findings. . . . On the Fireline illustrates the unique questions, methods, and findings made possible by the sociological imagination and is, thus, an excellent text with which to solidify a semester's worth of sociological training. Further, because Desmond interweaves compelling narratives, complex theory, and a discussion of methodological rigor, it solidifies students' understanding of exactly how useful, and fascinating, the sociological lens can be."
"This is an important book because it illustrates a set of practices that are sufficient to maintain social order in a dangerous world. . . . Desmond deploys this complex argument with persuasive grounding and enviable control. We are in a stronger position to think about risk because of his efforts."
"[The book is] a highly readable, at times funny, very insightful, Bourdieu-inspired ethnography of country masculinity, and as such very useful for courses on masculinity. It is a fine example of how to apply structuration theory and, therefore, a good resource for classes in social theory. It also offers a penetrating examination of the logic of bureaucratic organization and the way it creates a common sense world in which blame is always individualized. . . . A thick and rich take on a particular version of rural, masculine, working-class culture in the United States and how it fits with an institutional setting that requires young men to do dangerous work."
"Along with the risks and sorrow, Desmond also presents the humor and comradery of ordinary men performing extraordinary tasks.and#160;. . . Aand#160;good complement to Norman Maclean's Young Men and Fire. Recommended."
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 arenand#8217;t the adrenaline junkies or romantic heroes as theyand#8217;re so often portrayed.
An immersion into a dangerous world, On the Fireline is also a sophisticated analysis of a high-risk professionand#8212;and a captivating read.
and#8220;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.and#8221;and#8212;David Grazian, Sociological Forum
and#8220;Along with the risks and sorrow, Desmond also presents the humor and comaraderie of ordinary men performing extraordinary tasks.and#160;. . . Aand#160;good complement to Norman Maclean's Young Men and Fire. Recommended.and#8221;and#8212;Library Journal
About the Author
Matthew Desmond is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsinand#8211;Madison.
Table of Contents
Part Oneand#160; History and Place
1. Country Masculinityand#160;
2. The Sanctuary of the Forestand#160;and#160;and#160;
Part Twoand#160; Training and Discipline
3. A Joke between Brothersand#160;and#160;
4. Real Firefighters Drive Green Enginesand#160;and#160;
5. Learning and Burning
6. Taking the "Wild" Out of Wildfireand#160;
Part Threeand#160;and#160;and#160; Fire and Death
7. The Beaver Creek Fireand#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;
8. The Incompetent Dead
Appendix: Between Native and Alienand#160;and#160;and#160;