Columbus improves fire protection rating to 5

Published 5:16 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Homeowners could save on insurance
The Columbus Fire Department has improved its fire protection rating from a class 7/9 to a class 5/9, which will mean lower homeowners’ insurance rates for residents within city limits.
The 5 rating is for city limits and the 9 rating is for outside city limits, according to fire department officials. Columbus Fire Chief Bobby Arledge said he is waiting for the state to give the department a date in an effort to lower the township rating as well.
The fire protection rating system ranges from 1 (the best rating) to 10 (the worst rating). Most rural departments fall into the 9 category, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal.
The Columbus department’s new rating, which will become effective Aug. 1, 2012, was received following an inspection conducted by officials with the N.C. Department of Insurance Office of State Fire Marshal.
The inspection, which is required on a regular basis as part of the North Carolina Response Rating System, includes inspections for proper staffing levels, sufficient equipment, proper maintenance of equipment, communications capabilities and availability of a water source.
“I’d like to congratulate Chief Arledge for his department’s performance and for the hard work of all the department members,” said department of insurance commissioner Wayne Goodwin, who made the announcement April 13. “The citizens in the Town of Columbus should rest easy knowing they have a fine group of firefighters protecting them and their property in case of an emergency.”
State law requires officials with the state fire marshal’s office to inspect departments serving districts of 100,000 people or less, which makes up all but six of the state’s fire districts.
Arledge said the 5 rating means residents could save approximately 17 percent on their homeowners’ insurance.
The department is requesting a one-cent property tax increase in the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, in order to fully staff the department by hiring three full-time employees. Currently the Columbus Fire Department has one paid employee who works from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The additional tax, proposed to increase from 4 cents per $100 of property valuation to 5 cents per $100 of valuation, would enable the department to be staffed 24 hours a day.
“This will make the response time to emergencies a lot quicker, especially after 5 p.m. and on weekends,” Arledge said. “By doing this it will ensure our citizens of a timely response to any type of emergency they may have.”
The fire department has been holding public meetings to discuss the increase and the new fire rating, with both town and township residents encouraged to attend. The final public meeting will be held May 10 at 7 p.m. at Columbus Town Hall.
Columbus Town Council has endorsed the tax increase proposal. The Polk County Board of Commissioners will have to approve the increase in order for it to take effect next fiscal year.
Saluda Fire and Rescue also recently announced it received a fire rating of 5.
Commissioners are scheduled to meet with fire departments concerning their budgets on May 16.