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Basalt Fire Department improves critical rating

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

The Basalt Fire Department learned recently that it has improved its firefighting rating from the Insurance Services Office, based on factors such as staffing, training for volunteers, equipment, water supplies and preparation.

The department improved from an Insurance Services Office rating of Class 5 to Class 4 for parts of the sprawling district that are within 5 road miles of its stations in Basalt, El Jebel and Old Snowmass. That covers the heaviest-populated parts of the district. The Thomasville area rating of Class 9 remained unchanged.

The rating applies to structure fires only. The local fire departments also train for wildland fires.

“Everybody should talk to their insurance company because this takes effect March 1,” Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson said.

The Insurance Services Office performs periodic assessments of fire departments using countrywide, objective standards on fire protection. It is a for-profit company that provides its fire-protection information to property-casualty providers.

Insurance Services Office officials weren’t available to discuss if the Basalt Fire Department’s improved rating could alter individual property owners’ insurance premiums. Thompson said his research indicates the potential for savings is there.

“For commercial properties, this is going to be a big deal,” he said. “For residential, it’s a minuscule difference.”

Brick Swirbul, an insurance agent with American Family Insurance in Aspen, said there is no easy answer for the effects of an Insurance Services Office rating on premiums. There are more factors than the rating that go into the price. Loss history in the area is a key one, he said.

Like Thompson, he advised property owners to consult with their insurance agents on what, if anything, the rating means to them.

Basalt Fire Department improved its rating from 54.68 in the last assessment in 2001 to 63.57 this year. Operations and prevention improved by nearly 6 points. Water systems improved by 3 points. Community risk reduction improved by nearly 4 points.

Thompson said an overall rating of Class 4 is superb for a department that relies heavily on volunteers. Of 49,010 fire departments that were rated by the insurance office, only 17 percent have a rating of Class 4 or better. Another 40,574 are rated Class 5 to 10.

Basalt Fire Department has two paid firefighters and medics per shift through the week at its station in El Jebel. It also has 46 volunteers after adding 15 in the past two years, Thompson said. The strong Insurance Services Office rating reflects the paid staffing and training for the volunteers, according to Thompson.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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