When Central Emergency Services opened its Kasilof station in 2007, service area residents counted increased safety and protection as one of the lesser benefits. More important than a sense of well-being was the fact that their insurance premiums would drastically drop.
"People were like, 'So ... when's my fire insurance going to go down?'" said Fire Chief Chris Mokracek, "That was the concern. It wasn't that we are now 20 minutes closer if you're having shortness of breath or a heart attack or something like that."
Finally, after nearly five years of waiting, property owners living within five road miles of the Kasilof fire station will be able to cash in. ISO, the company that issues ratings on fire stations across America that affect how insurance companies calculate premiums, has officially lowered the ratings of several CES stations.
The 1-10 rating is officially called a public protection classification and gauges the ability of local stations to adequately respond to fires. A rating of 1 demonstrates exceptional protection, while a 10 represents the opposite end of the spectrum.
The Kasilof station has gone from a 10 to a 6, which is good news. ISO re-rated the Sterling, Kalifornsky Beach and Funny River stations from a 7 to a 6, and any property within Soldotna city limits and/or within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant remains at a 3.
"Down in Kasilof, to go from a 10 to a 6, they're looking at almost $600 on average that the homeowner down there will save annually on fire insurance," Mokracek said.
Residents within the five road mile radius from the Sterling, K-Beach, and Funny River stations should see a less drastic decrease in their payments, as they only dropped one point.
Though the Kasilof station was constructed in 2007, it has taken nearly four years to get the CES rating there changed. After accomplishing the laundry list of modifications ISO demanded in order to better the rating, an agent came back in August 2010 to re-evaluate the situation.
The Chicago-based company confirmed that CES had done all it had asked and awarded the six rating, but also declared it would not go into effect until May 2011.
"We said no," Mokracek said. "We made a big stink with the insurance commissioner, they wrote a letter to ISO, and we've kind of been fighting back in forth saying, 'No, if we're a 6, give it to us immediately. Don't wait until May.'"
Kasilof resident Paul Zimmerman -- who had been waiting since 2007 to see his rates decrease -- eventually got involved, rattling cages at the state level and demanding these changes be made immediately.
"I certainly started to pursue it because I was interested in my own bill," Zimmerman said. "But then I was like, 'Well, if I'm paying too much, how many other people are paying too much?'"
Zimmerman recently saw his fire insurance rate cut in half, and is now saving about $800 a year.
Mokracek warns that this change in rates "is not automatic," and urges homeowners within the applicable areas to contact their agents or insurance providers on the matter.
"I would advise them to contact their agent and look to see if they can get their rate reduced," agreed Sheri Jackson, a personal lines agent for Wells Fargo Insurance Services.
Jackson just adjusted the rate of one of her Funny River department area clients by $194, but says that a reduction -- if it even happens at all -- will vary from insurance company to insurance company.
"The people who are mid-term, that's where the question comes in," Jackson said, speaking about clients who are not at the renewal phase of their contract. "How are they going to be dealt with?
"It's going to be interesting to see what's going to transpire."
Karen Garcia can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
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