Key Peninsula Fire Battalion Chief Sawaya and Lieutenant VanScoyk at work during a recent car fire drill in Key Center. Photo courtesy Anne Nesbit

The Key Peninsula Fire Department (KPFD) will receive new fire protection class ratings effective May 1, resulting in insurance cost savings for most homeowners and increases or no change for others.

The Washington Survey and Rating Bureau (WSRB) examines the efficiency of fire districts all over the state every four years for insurance and other purposes. For the first time in 25 years, the WSRB has approved a fire protection class (FPC) rating increase for KPFD from Class 6 to Class 5, according to Fire Chief Guy Allen.

“If your home is within five driving miles of a staffed fire station and you have a hydrant within 1,000 feet of your home, your insurance would reflect the best FPC rating of the fire district,” he said.

The same home loses one grade if it is not within 1,000 feet of a hydrant. If the home is beyond five miles, the rating drops to 9, then 9A if it’s beyond seven miles, Allen said.

“The way it works is your insurance on your home has an anniversary date. Say it’s April; you miss a year,” said Allen. “To get the benefit of the improved rating, call your agent or insurance company and push that change. Don’t wait for the anniversary.”

According to the WSRB, the district earned a higher rating due to their regular vehicle maintenance program with the Gig Harbor Fire and Medic One, improved documentation of equipment maintenance, improved local water systems, a new fire communication dispatch system, and the fire marshal’s office business inspection program.

But Herron Island and Longbranch will both receive Class 9 ratings due to lack of staff.

“Herron Island installed 43 brand-new hydrants a couple years ago,” Allen said. “There isn’t a home on Herron Island that’s not within 1,000 feet of a hydrant, but their problem is they don’t have a response out of their fire station so they don’t gain any credit for that.”

The fire department maintains a tender truck (a water hauler) on Herron Island but has no one to operate it.

“The solution is as simple as getting at least six people to step up and say I will volunteer. We have been out there twice in the last 18 months talking specifically about this issue … and in both of those recruitment efforts we ended up with one applicant,” said Allen. “They’re not going to gain the positive result they could get come May just by having people step up and say I’ll volunteer.”

Allen said all they need are tender truck operators, not full-fledged firefighters who must undergo extensive training.

Longbranch faces a similar dilemma.

“Longbranch is part of the Class 6 today,” said Allen. “May 1 they will become a 9. At least at Longbranch we have four people on the books that live within five miles of that station.”

Allen said a station is considered staffed if six firefighters live within five miles. Two district employees who will respond after hours live within five miles of the Longbranch station and there are two new volunteers, but they still need two more.

“The real shame is they (Herron Island and Longbranch) could go from a 9 to a 5 in the blink of an eye, which would save hundreds of dollars per homeowner every year. If you look at our last levy, we were asking to raise the tax burden on a property; I think it was going to affect a $250,000 home by $38 a year. And we’re talking about if you pay $500 a year in insurance today, and you go from a 5 to a 9, you’re going to double your insurance bill. We need to go out there one more time at least and encourage them to join,” Allen said.

For information, call (253) 884-2222.

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