Becoming a firefighter

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86 Scopus citations


Why do individuals seek out high-risk occupations when safer ways of earning a living are available? How do they become acclimated to the dangers of their profession? This article addresses these questions by examining how individuals become wildland firefighters. Drawing on in-depth ethnographic data I collected while serving as a wildland firefighter employed by the US Forest Service, I explore how individual competences and dispositions acquired from a certain family and class background pre-condition rural working-class men for the rigors of firefighting. In Bourdieu's terms, I investigate how the primary habitus of self-described ‘country boys’ transforms into the specific habitus of wildland firefighters. Answers pertaining to why young men join firecrews and how they become seasoned to the hazards of wildfire are found not by examining processes of organizational socialization alone but by analyzing how processes of organizational socialization are specified extensions of earlier processes of socialization that take place during firefighters’ childhood and adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-421
Number of pages35
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2006
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


  • United States Forest Service
  • firefighting
  • habitus
  • masculinity
  • risk
  • rurality
  • work


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