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Desmond, a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, served on a wild land firefighting crew from 1999 to 2003, an experience that forms the basis for this examination of why people risk their lives fighting fires. Desmond uses sociological theories on risk taking, male bonding, and bureaucracy to understand why individuals select this job, how they interact with team members, and how the culture of the U.S. Forest Service shapes their training and views on the environment. He also draws on two experiences to show how firefighters react in dangerous situations. One was a serious flair-up in a blaze at Beaver Creek, AZ, that forced Desmond's crew to drop their equipment and run for their lives. The other was the death of a comrade owing to a burnover in 2003. Along with the risks and sorrow, Desmond also presents the humor and comradery of ordinary men performing extraordinary tasks. The book's sociological approach makes it a good complement to Norman Maclean's Young Men and Fire. Recommended for all libraries.
—Stephen L. Hupp