Volunteer fire departments either provide fire protection for a parish or a district, or assist a fire protection district in providing fire protection for a parish or a district.
The principal difference between volunteer fire departments and fire protection districts is the manner in which they are established:
- Volunteer fire departments are nonprofit agencies
- Fire protection districts are special service districts established by a local government, such as a parish governing authority
Fire protection districts are considered to be local government agencies; volunteer fire departments are not. However, most volunteer fire departments receive some type of state and/or local government assistance, including monies from the Two Percent Fire Insurance Fund. Receipt of any state and/or local assistance will trigger a reporting requirement for a volunteer fire department to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor (LLA) as a local auditee.
Volunteer fire departments are nonprofit organizations and often have fundraisers and other nonpublic sources of revenue to fund their operations. A volunteer fire department, like other nonprofit organizations, is not required by the audit law to report its private donations to LLA, unless the volunteer fire department commingles its donations with its state and local assistance (Louisiana Revised Statute 24:513 J. (1) (d)). Public and private funds may be deposited into the same bank account and not considered to be commingled, so long as the volunteer fire department maintains a separate accounting for its public and private funds in its books and records.
However, a volunteer fire department cannot convert state and local assistance into private funds by depositing the public funds into the bank account in which it maintains its private donations. The volunteer fire department must follow all applicable laws for the ultimate expenditure of the public funds they receive, no matter how those funds are physically maintained.