The Washington Survey and Ratings Bureau (WSRB) just completed an evaluation of the fire protection capabilities of King County Fire District 45. The fire district’s 55 square miles includes the City of Duvall, the unincorporated communities of Lake Marcel and Lake Margaret, and many points in between. For most residents, the review could lead to a reduction in fire insurance premiums and for a few others, a potential increase.
The WSRB is a non-profit organization that was created in 1911 to evaluate fire suppression capabilities for communities and provide a numerical grade available for insurance companies to use to establish rates for fire insurance.
WSRB’s system utilizes a numerical rating from 1 to 10; 1 being the highest possible fire protection and 10 being the least. Their grading is based on several criteria that include: fire department features for fire suppression (stations, trucks, equipment, personnel, etc.), water supply, emergency communications systems, fire prevention and public education programs.
Although served by the same fire department, the city and unincorporated areas of the district have different ratings. The recent evaluation improved both; the City of Duvall moved from a 5 to a 4 and most of the unincorporated portions changed from a 6 to a 5.
Normally, a review is performed in three-year intervals but the WSRB’s last visit to the Duvall area was in the 1990s. There have been many changes in the evaluation process over the 15-year gap. Fire Chief David Burke noted that the biggest change is in the way volunteer firefighters are considered in the WSRB rating. Specifically, for a volunteer station to receive credit there must be at least six firefighter certified volunteers (with a proven response history) who live within a two-mile radius of the station.
Chief Burke was told that this change would have the greatest impact on the Lake Margaret community because of the lack of active volunteers in the area. The volunteer station on Mountain View Road no longer qualifies as a station under the new rules. Any property that is outside of five road miles from a qualified station will be excluded from the new rating and be moved to a 9a classification. The nearest station recognized by the WSRB is located in downtown Duvall.
Chief Burke stated that he was pleased with the improved ratings but also shared his disappointment with the exclusion of some residences. He reiterated the fact that not all insurance companies use the WSRB system and that the district’s new ratings does not mean automatic changes in fire insurance premiums for its residents. He also advised the fire district is working on alternative strategies that will be included in a revised strategic plan due this fall.