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Monticello FD awarded new rating

The Monticello Fire Department has some good news for residents and businesses.

     After years of dedication and hard work, the department has achieved a fire insurance rating of six for the city of Monticello and an eight for Lawrence County from Mississippi’s ratings bureau.

     “A class six rating is great news for the city of Monticello,” said MFD Capt. Jared Evans.

     Evans said the new rating will mainly help businesses.

     “A class six rating is a nice shot in the arm for our industries and businesses,” said Evans. “One business in Monticello will see a 50 percent decrease in their insurance cost. Homeowners will see around a 5 or 10 percent decrease in insurance cost.”

     Previously, the Monticello rating was a seven and the county was a 10, and Evans said the department worked very hard to improve their rating.

     “Monticello has been working on this for about 15 years now,” said Evans. “We thought for a long time the only way we could get it was to hire additional full-time firefighters to add to our staff of three full-time firefighters we already have.”

     Evans said hiring more firefighters to help boost their rating would have cost the city about $150,000 a year. So the department sought other methods to improve their rating.

     The credit goes to the volunteers, Evans said.

     “It took a lot of effort, and a lot of it was our volunteers,” Evans said. “Our volunteers are true volunteers who don’t get paid at all. Most departments have volunteers that do get paid at least some, but ours do not.”

     Communities are classified between a one rating, the highest, and a 10 rating, which is the lowest. The score that is determined from applying the Fire Suppression Rating Schedule is translated into a public protection classification for a community.

     The lower the number, the lower insurance rates are for homeowners and businesses in the given community.

     Evans said the ratings are like a big game, with departments trying to get points to move up and the reward being a lower insurance rate for homes and businesses.

     Evans asked Ty Windham, of the Mississippi Ratings Bureau, what they could do to get their rating down, aside from hiring more full-time firefighters. Windham sent the department a list of nine things to work on, according to Evans.

     Training is at the center of the Monticello Fire Department’s success. In the Mississippi Fire Academy’s 2008 annual report, Lawrence County rated 72nd in the state in the number of men going to the state fire academy to get training hours, but this year they were at number 29.

     “Manpower had to be better trained, we had to begin fire inspections in the city and we had to begin a regular fire prevention program and our firefighters had to have training in that,” said Evans. “In the last three years we have had well over 10,000 hours of training for all of our firefighters combined.”

     Despite the recent success, the Monticello Fire Department plans to aim even higher.

     “There’s no reason for us not to pursue a five rating,” said Evans. “I say that understanding our limitations with funding, especially in this economy. But I really believe a five rating is something that we can attain and that would give us an opportunity to brag and encourage more business.”