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Three county fire districts receive improved ISO ratings
Lower ratings can mean less expensive homeowners insurance, more state fire funding
FARMINGTON — Three of the San Juan County Fire Department districts saw improved Insurance Service Office ratings this year.
ISO ratings are based on the various factors relating to the fire departments, the water supply and the communications. Some factors used in evaluating the fire departments include their fire trucks and equipment, training of personnel and the number of firefighters. After evaluating the various factors, the Insurance Service Office assigns rankings on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst.
Tom Fields, the county's deputy fire chief, said about a month ago the department began getting emails about the improved ratings for the three districts.
The Dzilth-Na-O-Dithle, Valley Fire and Sullivan Road districts currently have a rating of 4. According to county documents, Valley Fire previously had an ISO rating of 5, while Sullivan Road and Dzilth-Na-O-Dithle each had an ISO rating of 6.
Valley Fire covers 272 square miles in the Kirtland area. Dzilth-Na-O-Dithle covers more than 950 square miles from County Road 7010 south to the county line. Sullivan Road, which is District 9, covers 185 miles south of Bloomfield, including portions of the northern Navajo Agricultural Products Industry operation.
Fields said new equipment, better training, more volunteers and better response times helped lower the ISO ratings for the three districts.
The San Juan County Fire Department is a volunteer department. Fields said people can find information about becoming a volunteer firefighter at sjcfd.net.
County operations officer Mike Stark said the improved ratings have two main benefits. Stark said the improved rating could decrease home insurance rates and make the county eligible for more state fire funding.
"It's fantastic news for our citizens," Stark said.
Stark said the three districts now have the lowest ratings in the county, but he expects to see ratings improve at other districts, as well. He said the three fire districts were the most recently evaluated, and the other districts will be evaluated in the future.
Fields said Center Point near Aztec likely will be evaluated within the next year because it is home to a newly built fire station.
The county has invested money in new equipment and fire stations that could help improve the ISO ratings. For example, the county used bond money in 2016 to renovate Valley Fire Department Station 1 in Kirtland.
"We're trying to improve our ISO ratings for all the districts," Stark said.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.