In the state of Louisiana, an individual can become a volunteer firefighter for a parish. A person may not possess or use emergency lights if they are not a peace officer, firefighter, or public utility, highway construction or emergency personnel. The appropriate emergency light for such personnel is one that emits a red glow or a glow of red and white and is mounted on a dashboard, hood, front grill or roof of the vehicle.
Vehicles owned and operated by members of nonprofit corporations for exhibition in shows, parades, tours and other special events, but not for general transportation, may be equipped with alternately flashing lights. The lights may be sufficiently intense to be visible at 500 feet in normal sunlight. The use shall be allowed only when the vehicle is participating in exhibitions, shows, parades, tours and other special events, not for general transportation.
Intense Lights on Motor Vehicles
Flashing lights are not allowed except on authorized emergency vehicles, school buses or on any vehicle as a means of indicating a right or left turn. Such lights may also be allowed in the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard like a sinkhole that requires unusual care in approaching, overtaking or passing.
An illuminated light on a motor vehicle that projects a beam more intense than 300 candlepower may not be directed so that the high intensity portion of the beam strikes the level of the roadway on which the vehicle stands at a distance of 75 feet from the vehicle.
An individual may not drive or move a vehicle with a red or green light visible from directly in front of the center of the vehicle unless expressly authorized or required by statute. The rule also does not apply to a fire department or other government vehicle displaying green lights.
Louisiana Law About Flashing Signal Lights
An authorized emergency vehicle may be equipped with signal lights mounted as high and as widely spaced laterally as practicable. These should be able to display to the front two alternately flashing red lights located at the same level. At the rear, they display two alternately flashing red lights located at the same level.
These lights may have sufficient intensity to be visible at 500 feet in normal sunlight. In lieu of flashing red lights in the front, such a vehicle may be equipped with a large revolving red light on the roof discernible in all directions. This light shall have sufficient intensity to be visible at 500 feet in normal sunlight.
Other Colored Vehicle Lights
In lieu of a large revolving red light on the roof, authorized emergency response vehicles of organized fire companies may be equipped only with a large revolving alternating red and white light on the roof encased in a clear dome. This light may be discernible in all directions and have sufficient intensity to be visible at 500 feet in normal sunlight.
All publicly owned fire department vehicles and all licensed ambulances may use blue-colored electric lights. The lights shall be on the rear of the vehicle and not exceed 50 percent of the visual lights.
Becoming a Volunteer Firefighter
The volunteer fire department of a city or parish determines who is eligible to become a volunteer firefighter. For example, in Scott, a city in Lafayette Parish, a volunteer firefighter must:
- Be 18 years old.
- Live in or near Scott.
- Be a U.S. citizen.
- Have no felony convictions.
- Have reliable transportation.
The individual must complete all required and prerequisite training to become certified as a Firefighter 1 and a Louisiana certified Emergency Medical Responder. Further, the individual must:
- Remain active and in good standing with the Scott Fire Department.
- Abide by Scott Fire Department rules and guidelines.
- Attend prescheduled trainings at a minimum of every other week.
- Maintain 10 percent of fire calls or conduct volunteer station staffing.
Benefits of Being a Volunteer Firefighter
Benefits of being a volunteer firefighter include:
- Paid Per Call (PPC), a financial incentive program with a stipend per fire call, which is paid monthly. (Pay varies by local fire department)
- Emergency Medical Responder training and certification when available.
- School tuition reimbursement programs when available.
- Louisiana state income tax credit depending on tax bracket.
- Firefighting training.
- Membership in the Louisiana State Fireman’s Association.
A person can learn more about becoming a volunteer firefighter by contacting their local fire service. The point of having volunteer firefighters is to assist professional firefighters and to help protect communities during emergencies and evacuations.
Formal Benefits for Volunteer Firefighters
A volunteer firefighter who suffers an injury may be covered by insurance facilitated by the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal. The types of insurance include medical, workers' compensation, death and disability insurance. An individual who is not on the membership list of the organization like the local fire department on the date of their injury may not be entitled to benefits.
Claims typically must be submitted within 30 days of an injury or accidental death to be eligible for benefits. A report of injury form must be completed, and the fire chief of the department typically prepares a fire chief affidavit regarding the incident. If the fire chief is unable to do so, the chief official of the local governing board can do so. The affidavit should be notarized.
Opportunities for Young Volunteers
A local fire department may have opportunities for junior volunteer firefighters to assist with firefighting. An individual interested in such a program should contact their local fire department to determine eligibility. Incentives may be available. After training and service, junior volunteer firefighters may be eligible for scholarships and awards. Volunteer firefighting experience may also be an asset on a college admission application.
A junior volunteer firefighter is typically required to abide by certain requirements:
- Good academic standing with their school (minimum C average).
- Be the minimum age required by the local fire department.
- Participate in a minimum number of hours each month. ( At least one four-hour block monthly).
- Have a parent or guardian’s written permission to participate.
When a fire department does not allow minors to volunteer as firefighters, a young person can still assist with other activities in the department, including:
- Fire prevention and life safety education.
- Rehabilitation services.
- Apparatus and facility maintenance.
- Social media outreach for the department.
- Louisiana Revised Statutes: Section 32-327 Special Restrictions on Lamps
- Make Me a Firefighter: Scott Volunteer Fire Department
- National Volunteer Fire Council: National Junior Firefighter Program
- National Volunteer Fire Council: National Junior Firefighter Program FAQs
- Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal Public Safety Services: Fire Service Benefits
- Louisiana Revised Statutes: Section 32-318 Audible and Visual Signals on Certain Vehicles
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.