Two local fire departments and the residents they protect have something to be proud of.

Ashford-North Cove and Sugar Hill-Montford Cove fire personnel worked tirelessly to lower their departments’ insurance ratings, meaning money saved for homeowners.

McDowell County Fire Marshal Craig Walker estimated a $200-a-year savings on a $150,000 home.

“We are extremely proud of the progress our fire service in McDowell County has made,” said Walker. “These departments were inspected this year by the N.C. Department of Insurance to obtain these ratings. … This will be a great help to Sugar Hill and North Cove homeowners due to the commitment and hard work of these men and women volunteering their time to help their communities.”

The inspections are required on a regular basis as part of the North Carolina Response Rating System (NCRRS). Among other things, the routine inspections look for proper staffing levels, sufficient equipment, proper maintenance of equipment, communications capabilities and availability of water sources.

“It is important to note that these departments have no pressurized hydrants in their districts,” Walker stated. “That means countless man hours were put into establishing water points in natural water sources from creeks and lakes throughout the districts.”

Ashford-North Cove’s rating dropped from 9S to 6, which are the highest and lowest residential ratings, respectively.

“We took what was a five-year goal and did it in three years,” said North Cove Chief Brad Washburn. “It was tough to get there, but we did it. I feel like we are giving money back to the community, and that’s us being good stewards.”

Sugar Hill-Montford Cove’s rating dropped from 9E to 5. Rates below 6 only affect commercial properties.

“We started preparing for this 15 years ago,” said Sugar Hill Chief Joe Washburn. “We were fortunate enough then to see the big picture and to always move in the right direction toward this.”

The new rates will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Both chiefs emphasized the role that teamwork played.

“There is no way we could have achieved this if we hadn’t worked together,” Brad Washburn stated. “This is a big milestone for us, and I can’t say enough about the team effort. … We have a new generation here. They are not following the path of the older generations but are making their own path.”

“This was definitely not a one-person job,” said Joe Washburn. “This was a team effort. The past leadership of this department played a large role, and we continue the effort to maintain what they started.”

They also thanked their mutual aid departments, saying without their participation, the drop in ratings wouldn’t have been possible.

“I’d like to congratulate (Chief Brad Washburn and Chief Joe Washburn) for the department’s performance and for the hard work of all the department members,” said Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Causey. “The citizens of these districts should rest easy knowing they have a fine group of firefighters protecting them and their property in case of an emergency.”

The NCRRAS rating system ranges from one (highest) to 10 (not recognized as a certified fire department by the state), with most rural departments falling into the 9S category. While lower rates do not necessarily indicate poor service, a higher rating does suggest that a department is overall better equipped to respond to fires in its district, according to Causey. Higher ratings can also significantly lower homeowners’ insurance rates in that fire district.

Ashford-North Cove Fire Department

Bradley Washburn – chief

Jake Leopold – assistant chief

Tyler Norville – assistant chief

Gavin Wood – captain

Andrew Boone – captain

Caleb McKinney – captain, full-time firefighter

Chris Watkins – lieutenant

Chris Hollifield – lieutenant

Will Lonon – full-time firefighter

Andrew Riggs – safety officer

Michael Wyatt – safety officer

Ben Carpenter – firefighter

Robert Walker – firefighter

Zach Piercy – firefighter

Brian Piercy – firefighter

Austin Andrews – firefighter

Levi Pollygus – firefighter

D.J. Barrier – firefighter

Zach Wright – firefighter

Andrew Driggers – firefighter

Charles Washburn – firefighter

Bruce Starr – firefighter

Derek Robinson – firefighter

Seth Leopold – firefighter

Shana McKinney – firefighter

Dustin Washburn – firefighter

Cory Hoyes – firefighter

Megan Leopold – firefighter

Andrew Riggs – junior firefighter

Sugar Hill-Montford Cove Fire Department

Joe Washburn – chief

David Parker – assistant chief

David Patton – deputy chief

Justin Calhoun – captain

Grayson England – captain

Corey Presnell – lieutenant

Garrett Presnell – lieutenant

Caleb McKinney – safety/training officer

Nathan Baker – firefighter

Levi Blake – firefighter

Oren Benfield – firefighter

Charles Church – firefighter

Chris Church – firefighter

Emil Cmaylo – firefighter

Kamie Edwards – firefighter

Dean Flynn – firefighter

Chris Greene – firefighter

Anderson Harper – firefighter

Tres Hensley – firefighter

Austin Ledbetter – firefighter

Darryl Ledbetter – firefighter

Mitchell Ledford – firefighter

Alan McKinney – firefighter

Bruce Marlowe – firefighter

Chris Parker – firefighter

Will Poteat – firefighter

Robert Walker – firefighter

Zeb Wyatt – firefighter

Duane Hooks – part-time paid firefighter

Thomas Lael – part-time paid firefighter

Donnie Tipton – part-time paid firefighter

Tyler Vess – part-time paid firefighter

Brad Washburn – part-time paid firefighter

Dustin Waycaster – part-time paid firefighter

Gavin Wood – part-time paid firefighter

Dwayne Wright – part-time paid firefighter

Kyle Chapman – junior firefighter

Cole England – junior firefighter

Caleb Marlowe – junior firefighter

Kaila Montague – junior firefighter

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