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The lower the rating, the better

by Christy Chalmers

Fire protection ratings are dropping in part of the Carson Valley, which means insurance premiums may not be far behind.

The Sierra Forest Fire Protection district, which includes 1,600 houses and a handful of commercial buildings on the north and west side of the Valley, saw its rating drop from a 10 to a 5 in areas served by fire hydrants after a recent study by the Insurance Services Organization. The group’s ratings are used by the insurance industry to set premiums for different areas.

Rich Harvey, regional chief of the Sierra Forest district, said areas not served by hydrants were rated an 8, still an improvement over 10, which is considered a low score. The new ratings take effect March 1.

Though the Nevada Division of Forestry provides some paid firefighters to the district, they are helped by the Jacks Valley and Sheridan volunteer fire departments, which are part of the neighboring East Fork Fire District. Harvey attributed part of the lower rating to the Sheridan and Jacks Valley volunteers, whose training and consistent responses were considered.

“It (the lower rating) really reflects on the volunteers,” he said. “I was really pleased with the effort we got from those folks.”

Those efforts may translate into a 30 percent fire insurance decrease for a $100,000 home, Harvey said. Two companies were polled, and one estimated a rate of $580 a year at the previous 10 rating would drop to $336 a year for the 8 rating and $274 a year for the 5 rating.

The other said a rate of $460 a year with a 10 rating would decrease to $305 a year for an 8 rating and $277 a year for the 5 rating.

Residents of the East Fork Fire District, which covers much of the Carson Valley and Topaz Lake area and more than 13,500 homes within, may see similar reductions after an ISO study is completed this summer.

Tod Carlini, training captain for East Fork, said the district was last studied in 1984, and fire hydrants, new equipment and improved dispatching should mean better ratings for the 11 fire areas within East Fork.

Each area could get a different rating, and Carlini said he thinks they should range from 3 to 8. Currently, the East Fork areas have ratings ranging from 6 to 9.

“It’s something I believe is achievable,” he said. “There’s been a lot of improvements in water systems alone that may be able to carry us there.”

He said the ISO assesses fire districts based on how they receive and handle fire alarms, their fire departments and water supplies.

With improved ratings, Carlini believes residents in the East Fork district could save more than $27 million over 15 years.