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NETCO gets an upgrade on the ISO rating

Jul 01, 2023Jul 01, 2023

Pikes Peak Courier Reporter

Pictured, David Royar, with Teller County Waste, which donated 10 dumpsters to collect pine needles brought to Northeast Teller County Fire Protection District May 20.

An assessment from the Insurance Service Office found that Northeast Teller County Fire Protection District achieved a lower and better rating, an upgrade from 4 to 3, or ISO 03/3x.

The assessment by the ISO is the result of an evaluation of NETCO's ability to mitigate the risk within the district's 89 square-mile boundary in El Paso and Teller counties.

ISO is an independent agency used by insurance companies to rate fire departments nationwide to establish commercial and residential insurance rates for a specific district.

The ratings are based on the department's capacities and capabilities, the effectiveness of the dispatch center, and water supply.

"The city of Woodland Park's water supply is fantastic," said NETCO Chief Tyler Lambert.

To achieve the lower rating, the department scored well in apparatus, equipment, training and pre-planning.

"Our biggest downfall right now is personnel," Lambert said, adding that ISO rated the adequacy of staff at 4.69 of a possible 15.

"We are at 30% of what we should be," Lambert said. "The people we’ve got are great; our equipment is in good shape, for the most part. But we’ve got to continue to improve our scoring in these different areas, so we don't lose that 03/3x rating."

In the United States, 386 fire protection districts are in Protection Class 1 while 1,729 are a Class 2 and 3,583 are rated Class 3.

With the improved rating, effective June 1, insurance rates can possibly go down.

"I encourage homeowners to call their insurance companies to see what their savings could be," Lambert said. "Especially with the assessments going up, this is one way we can possibly help to recoup some of that cost."

An ongoing issue, however, is lack of funding to hire more firefighters. As a special district within the boundaries of the Downtown Development Authority, the department loses a portion of the annual taxes paid by property owners within the district.

The taxes are withheld from the fire department, as one of five special districts, to help fund the DDA, which is charged with improving the downtown area.

"This year, we will lose $142,000; it takes $95,000 to hire one firefighter," Lambert said.

Over the past couple of months, the DDA, whose chair is Tony Perry, has discussed refunding NETCO's portion of taxes.

Fire mitigation project

Along with improving its ISO rating, NETCO worked with homeowners in several ways, among them, through the chipper-loan program, free home inspections and the annual Wildfire Preparedness Day in May.

For this year's preparedness day May 20, NETCO sponsored a fire mitigation project that invited homeowners to remove and deposit pine needles at the station.

This year, Jay Baker and Shannon Smith, the owner and general manager of Teller County Waste, respectively, donated nine 30-yard containers and one 40-yard container for the project.

"We hauled out 310 yards of pine needles to Waste Connections Transfer Station in Colorado Springs," Lambert said, adding that the company's site manager, Adam Smith, waived the fees. "For them to waive the dump fees and for Teller County Waste to provide the dumpsters, is phenomenal," Lambert said.

The chief estimates the donations at $6,000.

The preparedness day included free inspections of fire extinguishers by Acme Fire and Safety Equipment.

"Everything helps," Lambert said. "Each and everything a homeowner can do to help mitigate their property helps us."

Pikes Peak Courier Reporter

Pikes Peak Courier Reporter

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Fire mitigation project