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Fire district seeks insurance rating review

Mid-Columbia Fire & Rescue has asked to be reevaluated by the rating entity that downgraded its status in 2008, which caused an increase in homeowners and business insurance within the district.

The rating comes from a widely used private entity, ISO, (Insurance Services Office) whose data is used by many insurance companies to set insurance rates.

The fire district was downgraded from a 4 to a 5 in 2008, and it has been working ever since to improve its status. The rating gauges the fire-protection capability of the fire district, with one being the best protection and 10 being no protection.

Fire Chief Bob Palmer said two things made him decide to seek a re-evaluation.

First, the district has made, or is about to make, several improvements, and the ISO itself changed its evaluation criteria at the beginning of this year.

He’s hoping for the re-evaluation within the next 30 days. He said he spoke to an ISO representative who told him the district could “potentially improve our ratings.”

He added, “Honestly, my gut feeling is we should do pretty good on the reevaluation.”

One new area of evaluation is “fire prevention and public education, which they call community risk reduction, so there’s extra credit there,” Palmer said.

Other areas of evaluation are: communications, water supply, staffing, apparatus, training and how many locations the fire department is based in.

The latter component, of having multiple fire stations, is something the district is about to change. It is remodeling its disused Station 2 in Columbia View Heights to make it a manned station, possibly by the end of this year.

“The worst that can happen is we stay where 02e’re at,” Palmer said.

The district was almost at the juncture of saying it simply couldn’t do anything to improve its status. But then it got funding through the city, from tax abatement money paid to local governments when Google expanded, to remodel Station 2 and build a training tower.

The district also got a grant to pay for three firefighters for three years, and it hopes to continue boosting its volunteer roster.

The district got a grant a year ago to fund a position aimed at volunteer recruitment.

“We’ve basically changed and added on training hours. At least attempted to add on training hours for both career and volunteers. Call volume can get in the way of training,” Palmer said.

The district has also enhanced its pre-fire planning process, which includes getting detailed mapping of buildings, he said.

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