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North Bend looks for savings in new EF&R deal

Two recent events confirmed the value of Eastside Fire & Rescue to North Bend. One was an initial agreement by most of the partners to pay a larger share of the costs in order to preserve the service. The other was a long-awaited fire protection rating improvement that will lower premiums in April. Deputy Fire Chief Bud Backer told North Bend’s City Council about the change Jan. 7, predicting the new rating would lower insurance costs for city residents as well as many in the surrounding area. North Bend’s rating changed from a 5 to a 4.

“In fact, all of Eastside Fire improved to a 4,” Backer said, “and this improvement will take effect April 1, 2014.”  The change, announced by the Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau, was initiated by North Bend nearly three years ago. Backer explained that the city had requested a new fire protection rating after acquiring additional water rights, and the bureau chose to expand the rating review to include all of the Eastside Fire partners, North Bend, Carnation, Sammamish, Issaquah, and Fire Districts 10 and 38.

“They ended up doing a rating for the entire service… so it was a new animal for the rating bureau to deal with, but they saw the efficiencies that Eastside Fire provides, and I believe they rewarded us rather well,” Backer said.  The process improved North Bend, Carnation and Fire District 10 from ratings of 5, and Fire District 38 from a 6. Some rural residents will also benefit from the change, Backer said, preventing an expected jump in insurance costs to come when the state mapping system identifies how far these properties are from fire hydrants.

“Those folks would have seen an increase in their insurance rate of all the way up to 9A,” Backer said, with a corresponding increase in insurance premiums, up to $700 a year.

Some of them won’t, because “during this reclassification, we worked with the rating bureau and we were able to obtain a tender credit, which shows that we bring enough water to a fire scene to effectively put the fire out.”

The credit means that homes more than 1,000 feet from a fire hydrant, but within five miles of a fire station, will have a fire protection rating of 5.

North Bend should also see a reduction in its fire insurance costs because of the rating, but firm figures won’t be available until the new rating takes effect, April 1. Residents are urged to contact their insurance companies to ask about a reduced premium.

Following Backer’s report, the council officially approved a new seven-year agreement with Eastside Fire & Rescue, effective Jan. 1, 2015,, at an estimated cost increase of $100,000. For 2014, the city has budgeted $870,000 for fire services and equipment.

 

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