Southend gets lower rating for fire safety

"Had it been Christmas, Don Smith might have felt like he got rocks in his stocking.The Fire District 3 chief received word earlier this month that in spite of recent improvements in district fire equipment, stations, and volunteer training, the Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau gave the district a worse fire safety rating than it did in 1989.What that means for district residents is that they continue to live in a district rated 7 on a 10 scale -- with 1 being the best -- and will not get any kind of break on their homeowner's insurance.This week, Smith said the district did receive credit for its efforts during the past four years in replacing older trucks and for signing on with ICOM, the county's new emergency dispatch system. In 1989, firefighters were dispatched through Whidbey Telephone.But, due to stricter standards in this year's revue, the district's water supply was actually judged to be worse than a decade ago. According to the bureau's reviewer, 40 percent of the district lacks fire hydrants. Even though the district's fire stations have more water-carrying tender trucks than 10 years ago, the ratings bureau directs its scrutiny toward the community's water systems and not the district's water trucks.The water situation ranked a lowly 9 on the 10-point scale. A 5 rating on the district's fire stations helped counter the low score, keeping the district at a 7 overall.Chief Smith he at one point expected an overall 5 rating. He said he is extremely disappointed at the ratings bureau's evaluation.I apologize to the community. We did the best we could, he said.The bureau's rating of a fire district can factor into rates for homeowner and business hazard insurance rates. Jerry Robillard of Northsound Insurance Group in Freeland said it is unfortunate that the bureau did not rate the district a 5. That could have saved some home and business owners money on their annual hazard insurance premiums, provided their insurance providers have published lower rates that correspond with better fire ratings."

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