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On the FirelineLiving and Dying with Wildland Firefighters$
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Matthew Desmond

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780226144085

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226144078.001.0001

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The Sanctuary of the Forest

The Sanctuary of the Forest

(p.54) 2 The Sanctuary of the Forest
On the Fireline

Matthew Desmond

University of Chicago Press

What compels people to accept the burdens of firefighting? Why do they choose to take part in such a demanding and dangerous enterprise? This chapter demonstrates that the answers are to be found in the least likely place: downtime. Many sociologists have suggested that risk takers understand downtime as meaningless and dull. It is argued that, at Elk River, periods of waiting are saturated with meaning. Far from being “killed time” or “wasted time,” downtime is primetime. Elk River offers something more alluring than rushes or riches—something having to do with their country-masculine habitus.

Keywords:   firefighters, wildland firefighting, Elk River, fire station, downtime, country-masculine habitus

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