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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 Beaver Creek Fire

The Beaver Creek Fire

(p.200) 7 The Beaver Creek Fire
On the Fireline

Matthew Desmond

University of Chicago Press

Two events more than any others temper and test the firefighter's illusion of self-determinacy: a fire that rages out of control and the loss of a fellow firefighter. This chapter deals with the first. It is only by following firefighters through these vexatious tests that we acquire the deepest understanding of how they (and their supporting organization) comprehend safety and risk, fire and death. Only in these trying times when firefighters suffer defeat can we sufficiently gauge the durability of the illusion of self-determinacy. Beaver Creek was no ordinary fire. It was an especially violent blaze that forced the author and his crewmembers to drop their tools and run for their lives. As such, this fire—presented here in narrative form—provides a rich opportunity to observe not only the extreme danger and fast action of firefighting but also the way firefighters make sense of their world when it spins out of control.

Keywords:   firefighters, firefighting, wildfires, self-determinacy

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