When Fire Chief Brian Huff got his start with the Jefferson County Fire District in 2012, the district had been consistently rated as a middle-of-the-road department.

Five years later in 2017, the Jefferson County Fire District was re-evaluated by ISO Mitigation, an independent company that collects information that insurance companies can use to underwrite policies.

The fire district received a more favorable class rating for its fire-protection ability and with the better classification, fire insurance premiums on homes in the immediate area are expected to decrease.

Through the Public Protection Classification program, ISO considers factors such as the district’s ability to respond in an emergency, the training and certification of its staff and the community’s water supply.

ISO’s assessment shows the investment in the district’s fire protection can prevent future fire losses, Huff said. According to ISO Mitigation’s website, the best classification of 1 is considered to offer “superior property fire protection,” while a rating of 10 is essentially not an effective department in its fire-protection efforts. The county’s previous classification sat at 5 and was improved to a 3 in the recent evaluation.

Improving the district’s classification has been years in the making, and the first step to improving the rating was improving the quality of training at the volunteer stations, Huff explained.

“When I got there we started looking at how to recruit and retain volunteers,” Huff said. “With better training we can retain workers and then the number of certifications our guys have improves the rating too.”

The district began offering opportunities for training three times per week at different times of day. In return, volunteer firefighters could be more consistent in attending training, Huff said.

“Obviously having more qualified people helps (the district),” Huff said of the different training schedule.

The fire district also got better equipment and made sure it didn’t cost taxpayers, Huff said. Through the Firefighter Property program, the district purchased used military equipment from the Department of Defense that was reworked for the district’s use in firefighting and emergency services.

The improvement of the district’s engines and the partnerships with Deschutes Valley Water District and the city maintenance of fire hydrants in Madras, Metolius and Culver were also key factors in lowering the ISO’s rating of the Jefferson County Fire District, Huff said.

With a new lower rating, Jefferson County residents who live within 5 road miles of either of the two stations can receive a lower rate on their fire insurance premiums. Insurance companies use information collected through this process in the writing of their policies.

Though the cost of fire insurance doesn’t typically drive up the cost for potential homebuyers, said Jefferson County’s Mike Ahern, it can save more money for existing homeowners.

Homeowners within 5 road miles of either of Jefferson Fire District’s stations are encouraged to inquire about lower rates on their fire insurance, he said.

Ahern — a broker sales associate with Coldwell Banker Dick Dodson Realty and a Jefferson County commissioner— said the highest premiums he has dealt with were for flood insurance.

“I haven’t really seen the cost of fire insurance throw anyone out of the market,” Ahern said, “but lower costs are definitely always good for home owners.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, acolosky@bendbulletin.com

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