Fire rating increased

Within the last few months most homeowners within Fire District

38 received a surprise from State Farm Insurance Company. According to

the letter delivered by the insurance giant, their insurance policies will go up

as the result of an increase in the district's fire protection rating.

Apparently the district _ which is served under contract by Eastside

Fire and Rescue _ had been covered by a blanket level of 5. Now, most

households will receive a fire rating of 6 while some might see an increase

to 8.

When assigning fire protection ratings the higher the number, the

higher the cost of insurance.

Brad Oltmans of State Farm in DuPont said Monday that

insurance on homes with a replacement value ranging between $130,000

and $210,000 will increase about $90 to $120 per year. He added the move

is the result of State Farm's recent review of all policyholders

nationwide and was done to bring the company into compliance with state laws.

"We did this property-wide," he commented. "Anyone who is

within the boundary lines of incorporated North Bend is a 5, while

everyone within Fire District 38 is a 6.

"We're basically following our rules, which consider distance to

a manned fire department, distance to water, or distance to a hydrant

or standpipe. A lot of the properties that are getting the letters are in areas

that don't have water.

"It's a competitive market," Oltmans added. "We have to

charge the appropriate rate and we have to be in compliance. That's why we did

this program, to ensure we weren't overcharging people or undercharging."

Jeff Zechlin of the Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau said

individual properties had to be within five road miles of the nearest fire

station for a classification of 6. If they're outside that range, he added,

they're classified 10. He admitted he wasn't sure why State Farm was giving an

8 rating to some of the District 38 properties.

"The only thing I know is that State Farm has adopted a policy that

does not recognize general classifications," commented Chief Lee Soptich

of Eastside Fire and Rescue. "By year's end we expect to receive two

additional 2,500-gallon (water) tenders. When they arrive, we're looking

at putting one in North Bend and applying for a tender credit. Once we

get the tenders, we're confident we can apply for and pass that rating.

Then no one will get a blanket 8 rating.

"The important stuff is it looks like it's not driven by the rating bureau

or the fire department," he added. "It's an insurance thing. Our intent is to

get everyone back under our blanket rating."

The change in insurance rates will not effect other local agencies,

according to Soptich and Snoqualmie Fire Chief Bob Rowe. North Bend _

which also receives fire protection services through Eastside _ will retain its 5

rating, while Snoqualmie's rating is due for a review following the creation

of the city's independent fire department.

"We're about ready to start our field survey next month," Rowe

said. "In 1991, when this area was part of Fire District 10, we were rated at

6. We're about to receive our first fire rating as an established fire


"This has been a statewide process," Oltmans emphasized.

"We've had agencies and fire chiefs across

the state working closely to make sure everyone pays the proper rate. In

the state of Washington, approximately 4 percent of our risks

(policyholders) received increases, while 3

percent received decreases."

"But if there are individual cases that are class 8, we'd be willing to

talk to them," he concluded. "If they

have any questions, there is a number at the bottom of their letter. They can

call and ask why they're moving up."

State Farm policyholders in Fire District 38 who have questions

about their home's rating can call (888) 446-1161.

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