How will decision to work with city fire protection benefit residents?

Published 12:34 am Tuesday, November 22, 2016


NATCHEZ — Adams County supervisors invited representatives from the insurance industry, Adams County Water Association and the Mississippi State Rating Bureau Monday to discuss options of going in with the city on fire protection.

Jack Stephens, who is retired from Stephens and Hobdy Insurance, said he has been pushing the county for 10 years to pursue better fire ratings. Stephens said he is glad to see this push. However, he said if supervisors are unable to earn a rating of a 7 or lower — preferably a 5 — it might not help people as much as they envision.

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“Of the 200 to 300 (companies) who write property insurance, off the top of my head, only 4 will write insurance for a rating of 8, 9 or 10,” he said.

Stephens said some people would receive premium savings. But to really get the benefit for the majority of people, Stephens said the rating would need to be at level 5 and within a 5-mile radius of a fire station.

With city cooperation, Stephens said two places in the county could potential meet that qualification now.

Broadmoor and Steamplant Road subdivisions are within 5 miles of the fire station on Vaughan Drive, and some parts of Liberty Road are within 5 miles of the fire station on Wood Avenue.

Stephen Applewhite, a field representative with the Mississippi State Rating Bureau, said assuming no problems exist with the water system or the city’s ability to shuttle enough water to a fire site, residents in Broadmoor or Liberty Road could benefit. However, Applewhite said the Natchez Fire Department would have to be their primary fire department, not the Foster Mound or Liberty Road fire stations.

Stephens said first he would draw up fire districts around the existing stations and help the people who are not already saving from the Natchez stations. Stephens said some insurance companies might already be giving residents in Broadmoor and Liberty Road the benefit of Natchez Fire service for insurance purposes.

Once that is done, Stephens said it would be more obvious where the two fire stations would need to be located to benefit the most people. With only two stations, Stephens said “no man’s land” spots, where they would not see any insurance savings, would still exist.

People in “no man’s land” might still be insured, potentially through the surplus line market, but they will be paying high rates for it.

“You can insure a house that is currently on fire, but you might be paying more than you like,” he said.

County Administrator Joe Murray said the thought to impact the most people has been to place a station near Beau Pre on U.S. 61 and the second in Washington near Historic Jefferson College.

Applewhite said a fire district could be graded through shuttling water from another location to the scene of a fire, though the water supply system could still potentially factor in.

For areas without at least 4-inch water mains, the grading bureau has a shuttling alternative requiring a supply of 250 gallons per minute being sustained for a period of an hour within five minutes of arrival of the first engine to the scene.

Even in the shuttling situation, fire hydrants are still required, and the fire rating bureau recommends 6 -inch mains on fire hydrants.

Supervisor David Carter said many areas in the county under Adams County Water Association have at least 4-inch mains, which is the minimum that a hydrant can use. But Carter said some of the other water associations would not meet the qualifications.

Supervisor President Mike Lazarus said in Sibley, where ACWA’s lines are 2 inches, a workaround might be putting 4-inch lines out to areas where the county could put out enough hydrants to qualify for the shuttle operations.

Lazarus said with use of the volunteers, the county could potentially meet the water shuttle qualifications in most areas within the proposed fire districts.

Applewhite said consolidation of fire service with the city would also potentially help Natchez residents, which currently benefit from a 5 rating. Though Natchez still has other issues to work out, sending fewer trucks into the county would improve the grade closer to a 4.

The board also briefly discussed the fire districts created this past week within a 5-mile radius of the Liberty Road, Lake Montrose and Foster Mound volunteer fire stations. Applewhite said he only saw two potential problems in moving the rating from a 10 to a 9.

Typically with volunteer stations, training and documentation are the biggest deterrents in the rating upgrade, he said. Applewhite said volunteers could be doing a lot of training, community outreach and making runs in mass force, but if it is not recorded on paper, it is for naught.

Adams County Fire Coordinator Darryl Smith said he didn’t foresee any problems in the stations moving from a 10 to a 9.

Lazarus said he hoped to have Applewhite meet with Smith within a week to grade the three fire districts.

The Kingston Volunteer Fire Department already has a rating of 8 within a 5-mile radius of the station.