Burning Down the House

Thousands of boys dream of becoming firefighters. Some get the chance, and for some of those, the dream becomes a nightmare.

Burning Down the House is the story of Wangersky’s eight-year career as a volunteer firefighter, an experience that wound up reaching into every facet of his life and changed the way he saw the world forever.

Written in vibrant, luminous prose, the book traces his years from rookie to veteran firefighter and the emotional and psychological toll it took on his personal life. Offering a rare glimpse into the physical dangers and psychological costs of trying to save strangers’ lives, Wangersky paints a harrowing and sometimes heartbreakingly vivid portrait of the fires, medical calls and automobile accidents that are the standard fare of the profession.

Building a map of traumatic memories — from performing CPR on a colleague’s father to close calls in house fires and a fuel explosion — Wangersky explains secrets of firefighting that many emergency workers would never let themselves admit.

Visceral and affecting, Burning Down the House is an insightful account into the perilous world of firefighting and an unforgettable memoir of how, in chasing his passion, Wangersky almost lost himself.