Hank Silverberg, wtop.com
ROCKVILLE, Md. - Expanded fire protection could have an impact where people may not notice it: on their homeowners insurance bill.
Montgomery County's fire department has just received a higher rating from the insurance industry in its first re-evaluation since the 1970s. Back then, the county's population was half its current size of about one million people.
The Insurance Services Office has given the fire department a rating of Class 3 for urban areas and Class 6 for rural areas, based on a scale of one to 10. Class 1 is the highest a department can get.
Richard Bowers, the fire chief, says the higher rating could translate into lower insurance rates for both residents and businesses.
"It's very premature to put a number to anything," says Bowers. "The most important thing to really focus on in this county for residents and commercial interests is that it's safer."
The county had two fire-related deaths in 2012, down from 13 in 2009.
County Executive Ike Leggett says response time has decreased by two minutes. He credits the $14 million to $18 million dollars a year that is taken in from ambulance fees, which has helped to upgrade the fire department.
The Public Protection classifications from the Insurance Services Office are based on the quality of the county's 911 emergency system, staffing and equipment levels at fire houses, and the availability of water, both at hydrants and from alternative sources.
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