Who is answering the call? Volunteer firefighting as serious leisure

Careen Mackay Yarnal, Lorraine Dowler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


This study explores the meaning of the serious leisure experience for volunteer firefighters. The 70,000 volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania are the basis of this study. Volunteer firefighting contrasts with other serious leisure pursuits examined to date in two ways. First, individuals are involved in a highly visible, emotionally charged public service involving life and death situations. Second, volunteer firefighters are simultaneously volunteers, amateurs, and professionals. Within this nexus, being a volunteer is marked by both obligation and ambiguity, creating dynamic tensions that must constantly be negotiated. Giving freely of their time to perform "double duty" beyond their roles as employees, family and community members, society thinks of them as professionals and holds them to professional standards. In reality they are unpaid, voluntary amateurs. The resulting haziness concerning the value of volunteer firefighters as social capital has significant implications for future recruitment and retention numbers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-189
Number of pages29
JournalLeisure/ Loisir
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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