Making Firefighters Deployable

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Although sociologists have devoted a considerable amount of research to exploring high-risk organizations, they have not yet developed an adequate explanation as to why individuals working within such organizations place themselves in harm's way and how organizations ensure they remain there. This article addresses this gap by analyzing how the United States Forest Service motivates wildland firefighters to participate in life-threatening activity. Drawing on ethnographic research and content analyses of official documents, it describes the process by which firefighters come to develop a specific disposition towards risk taking, a disposition through which they view firefighting as an activity void of danger, and how this disposition maintains its shape, and even grows stronger, after confronting its biggest challenge: the death of a firefighter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-77
Number of pages19
JournalQualitative Sociology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Death
  • Firefighting
  • High-risk organizations
  • Human error
  • Risk


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