Owners of residences and commercial buildings in at least parts of five Wilkes County fire districts can expect to soon pay less for homeowner’s insurance.
The N.C. Department of Insurance announced earlier this month that it reduced fire suppression ratings for the Knotville, Broadway, Moravian Falls, Mountain View and Mulberry-Fairplains fire districts, effective April 1, 2021.
The private Insurance Services Office (ISO) inspects fire departments and rates them based on a Fire Suppression Rating Schedule from the N.C. Department of Insurance. Nine Wilkes fire departments were inspected in October.
This schedule considers emergency communications, fire department (including equipment and firefighter training hours) and available water supply. It also recognizes efforts fire prevention, public fire safety education and fire investigation efforts.
ISO rates fire departments on a scale of one to 10, with one being the best. These ratings, typically in effect for about five years, are provided to insurance companies to determine homeowner’s insurance premiums.
Moravian Falls went from a rating of 6/9E to 4/9E; Broadway, from 6/9E to 5/9E; Mulberry-Fairplains, from 5/9E to 4/9E; Mountain View, from 6/9E to 5/9E; and Knotville, from 6/9S to 5.
Split ratings are given when part of a fire district is within five miles of a fire station or substation and the other part doesn’t have fire hydrants and is between five and six miles from a station, which is the case for most Wilkes fire districts.
The first half of the rating is for most of the district, which is the area within five miles of a station or substation. It can be a number between one and 10. The second half (between five and six miles from a station or substation, can be a 9E or a 10.
Knotville Fire Chief Calvin Wyatt said adding more tanker trucks helped improve the district’s rating because it increased the volume of water available to fight fires.
Wilkes Fire Marshal Niki Hamby said adding fire hydrants helped Knotville lower the second half of its rating.
Broadway Fire Chief Tracy Brooks said purchasing additional equipment and completing more hours of training helped improve Broadway’s rating.
Mountain View Fire Chief Brad Mathis said the ratings also consider personnel and truck response to fires, scene set up, equipment maintenance and reporting.
“Our firefighters and medical responders work hard for the citizens of Mountain View. Our number one goal is to save lives and protect property, but everything we do helps property owners save money on fire insurance.”
Moravian Falls Fire Chief Kimi Hamby said more firefighter training and recording this helped improve his district’s rating.
Hamby said Wilkes fire departments benefitted from showing their ability to work together to shuttle water and how well they can move massive amounts of water for long periods, as well as making mutual aid water tanker operations more streamlined. He cited automatic mutual aid agreements, resulting in three departments automatically being dispatched when there is a structure fire.
Mulberry-Fairplains Chief Scott Handy his district’s rating was improved “by putting in a lot of hard work and manpower hours.” Handy also cited “dedicated officers and board members and good support from the community.”
Four other fire departments were up for inspection and kept their same ratings. They are Roaring River, Millers Creek and Cricket, all 5/9E. North Wilkesboro remained unchanged at 4.