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Fire department plan has benefits for county

Lincoln County’s eight volunteer fire departments have set anambitious goal of improving their fire ratings countywide by twolevels in five years.

Fire officials discussed their plan during last week’s board ofsupervisors meeting. Supervisors did not immediately act on theproposal, preferring to take it under advisement for furtherreview.

Fire departments in the state are rated on a scale of 10 to 1.County fire officials want to improve their ratings to Class 8under their five-year plan.

With the exception of the New Sight Volunteer Fire Department,which has a class 9 district, all Lincoln County departments arerated at class 10. The Brookhaven Fire Department is rated at class6.

County fire officials did not have a cost estimate on theirimprovement plan. Arriving at that cost by determining fire stationplacement, equipment and manpower needs is the next step aftersupervisors’ approval of the plan.

County fire officials have developed potential fire insurancepremiums savings associated with better fire ratings. Aconservative estimate mentioned Monday was $4.3 million countywide,with individual homeowner savings determined by amount ofinsurance, home materials used and other factors.

Some of that savings would no doubt be offset by higher taxesthat would be needed to help meet the departments’ goal.

Currently, three-quarters of a property tax mill go to supportcounty fire departments; the maximum levy is four mills. Countydepartments also utilize fire insurance rebates, grants andfund-raisers to aid in their firefighting efforts.

Any additional costs associated with the ratings improvementplan should help lead to lower insurance premiums for homeownersand better service from the fire departments. There’s no questionthat homeowners would love to see the former and hope to never needthe “ladder.”