The ACLU of Nevada is representing seven incarcerated firefighters who were badly burned while working as wildland firefighters as part of a program in which the Nevada Division of Forestry and the Nevada Department of Corrections press incarcerated people into dangerous service on behalf of the state.
The case is Leavitt v. Nevada, Case No. A-23-867730-C, and it was filed in Clark County.
Background on the Case
On April 20, 2021, Leavitt and the other plaintiffs were moved from Jean Conservation Camp to a site near Laughlin to contain the remnants of a large fire that had swept through the area. As the day dragged on, they realized the ground was still smoldering and burning their feet. The soles on one of the plaintiff's boots literally melted off, and in response, a supervisor merely taped them back on and gave an order to get back to work.
When they were returned to Jean Conservation Camp, the workers found their socks had melded to their feet, and they could not exit the bus without assistance. That night, they could only shower and reach the restroom by crawling on their hands and knees. None of the plaintiffs received medical treatment for their second-degree burns until the next day.
Background on NDOC's Firefighting Program
Like many Western states, Nevada uses people incarcerated in the Department of Corrections to fight wildfires. As of 2021, 185 incarcerated people were assigned to fight fires on behalf of the state of Nevada. Many incarcerated people, including our incarcerated clients, want to participate in the program: It is meaningful work, and the quality of life at Jean Conservation Camp is better and more stable than that at the main prison. While incarcerated people are held to many of the same standards as other firefighters, they are paid very differently and only receive 83 cents a day when not actively fighting a fire or $1 per hour when actively fighting a fire.