balsam willets fire sign

The Balsam-Willets-Ochre Hill Volunteer Fire Department recently was notified by State Insurance Commissioner and Fire Marshal Mike Causey that it has received a rating of 5/9E, meaning the department has been rated to serve a 6-mile district.

In a letter to Fire Chief Johnny Nicholson, Causey wrote, “Congratulations on your recent improvement to your fire suppression rating! I commend you and your department for your dedication and commitment to making your community a safer place to live. I’d like to congratulate Chief Nicholson for the department’s performance and for the hard work of all the department members.”

Ratings for fire departments are created by a firm called the Insurance Ratings Office. Fire department inspections are conducted by officials with the Department of Insurance Office of the State Fire Marshal. Among other things, the routine inspections look for proper staffing levels, sufficient equipment, proper maintenance of equipment, communications capabilities and availability of a water source.

The ratings are provided to homeowner insurance companies; the better equipped a local fire department is to deal with home fire, homes in its service area face less of a risk and are generally less expensive to insure.

The ISO rating runs from 1 to 10, with 1 the highest ranking and 10 not recognized as meeting minimum requirements.

Residences that are 5 miles or less from either fire department falls under the class 5 rating. Anything that is between 5 and 6 miles is considered a class 9 rating. Any residence that is more than 6 miles away from either station falls under the class 10 rating.

“Thanks to all fire department members for their help in achieving this goal,” Chief Nicholson said. “I would like to also thank the Balsam-Willets-Ochre Hill community for their continued support.”

The new rating will be effective Jan. 1.