The Old Fort Fire Department and its district have earned new and improved ratings after a recent inspection by the N.C. Department of Insurance’s Office of the State Fire Marshal.

North Carolina Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Causey announced recently that the Old Fort Fire District completed a routine inspection and received a new rating. The inspection, conducted by officials with the N.C. Department of Insurance’s Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM), is 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 a water source, according to a news release.

The Old Fort Fire Department serves both the town of Old Fort and the five-mile district outside of the town limits. Under the new rating, the Old Fort Fire Department will go to a class 4 for the town of Old Fort and a class 4 for the five-mile district. Both new ratings take effect June 1.

Fire Chief Ron Richardson said to The McDowell News the ratings used to be 6 for the town and 9 for the five-mile district. The last inspection, which was held in November, resulted in the improved ratings.

The NCRRS 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 ratings 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. Higher ratings can also significantly lower homeowners insurance rates in that fire district, according to the news release.

“I’d like to congratulate Chief Richardson for the department’s performance and for the hard work of all the department members,” said Commissioner Causey. “The citizens in the town of these districts should rest easy knowing they have a fine group of firefighters protecting them and their property in case of an emergency.”

Richardson said homeowners and property owners in Old Fort should notice a big savings in the fire insurance with the improved ratings. The biggest savings should happen to those who live or own property in the five-mile district.

“That will be a big savings,” he said. “That has been seen by other districts in the county that have improved their ratings.”

State law requires OSFM officials to inspect departments serving districts of 100,000 people or less, which makes up all but 12 of the state’s fire districts, according to the news release.

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