Fire officials with the McDuffie County Fire/Rescue Services recently announced a new ISO Public Protection Classification rating for the county, which will benefit a number of industrial and other businesses.
"The Insurance Services Office Public Protection Classification was lowered from a 6/9 to a 5/9 resulting from improving services provided to citizens along with dedication and hard work of our career and volunteer officers and staff," according to Fire Chief Bruce Tanner.
The rating won't take effect until April 1.
"This is some good news, because it shows that we are moving in the right direction," Chief Tanner told The McDuffie Mirror during a recent interview. "Commercial and industrial plants will see a significant decrease in their property insurance, based on this new rating."
Individual homeowners, however, aren't expected to see any sharp decreases until the rating goes to between a 5 and 4, according to Assistant Chief Stephen Sewell. Such a drop isn't expected to happen in McDuffie County for several more years.
"We'd like to see it go as low as a 4, but we don't expect that's a possibility for at least another five to 10 years from now," Chief Tanner said, whose department includes six fire stations located in various parts of the county. "Preferably, five years is what we would like to shoot for."
During a recent county commission meeting, Chief Tanner recommended that commissioners:
- Recognize the efforts of those affiliated with the county fire department, its career and volunteer firefighters and staff for their efforts in making the lower ISO rating possible;
- Recognize that the investment of tax dollars in improving our fire department and the services provided to citizens is cost-effective and prudent;
- Agree in principle to support the goal of further reducing the Public Protection Classification to a Class 4 "so that our residential property owners can realize the significant saving on their property insurance premiums associated with this classification"; and
- Seek the input of fire officials when it comes to future plans regarding expansions or alterations to the water system - especially in how such might impact the Public Protection Classification and the services that the county fire department provides to citizens.
"At this particular time, we haven't gotten into the nuts and bolts of what we really need to do in order to get to a 4," Chief Tanner said, noting that he and Assistant Chief Sewell have discussed some ideas. "It's something we're going to have to start thinking about and planning for, though. We want to strive to get a Class 4 rating."
Building more fire stations will "definitely" be part of those discussions, Chief Tanner pointed out.
"We haven't added a single fire station in this county in the last 15 years," he said.
Through the county's Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funding, commissioners replaced an old outdated firehouse on Harrison Road with a new, state-of-the-art fire headquarters near the intersection of Harrison and Salem roads. Another new fire station was constructed at the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport several years ago to replace the old Washington Heights Volunteer Fire Department.
A number of improvements have been made to existing fire department stations elsewhere in the county, but a lot of those improvements have been made by the firefighters, themselves, Chief Tanner said.
Realistically, the fire chief said within the next five to 10 years, he believes the county fire department will grow by at least two additional stations with some added staff, too.
Such an investment would cost in the neighborhood of about $2 million, he explained. Each of the stations, alone, would cost between $600,000 and $700,000, Assistant Chief Sewell predicted.
"We're not going to be able to play catch-up, if the population of this county grows faster than the experts think it will," Chief Tanner said. "That's why it's so important to be thinking and planning ahead."