Friday, 26 February 2021 16:06

Hamlet Fire Department earns new rating, lowers industry insurance rates

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Hamlet Fire Department earns new rating, lowers industry insurance rates RO file photo

HAMLET — Many of Richmond County’s industries will see their insurance rates lowered following a favorable inspection by the N.C. Department of Insurance and the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

The Hamlet Fire Department was informed by the state on Feb. 24 of its increased rating, from 5 to 4, effective June 1.

The 75-square-mile district includes the city of Hamlet, town of Dobbins Heights and the Marks Creek area, and spreads to the South Carolina border and Scotland County line, according to Chief Calvin White.

The chief said the industries — including CSX, Enviva, Global Packaging, Hood Packaging, American Woodmark and VBC Manufacturing — will see “much better insurance rates,” as will Dobbins Heights and residents who live outside the city limits.

Insurance rates for those in Hamlet will stabilize, he added.

“I’d like to congratulate Chief White for the department’s performance and for the hard work of all the department members,” Insurance Commissioner and Fire Marshal Mike Causey said in a press release. “The citizens … of these districts should rest easy knowing they have a fine group of firefighters protecting them and their property in case of an emergency.”

According to Causey’s office, departments’ ratings run from 1, the highest, to 10. Those rated the lowest are not recognized as a certified fire department by the state. Most rural departments are ranked as a 9s.

“While lower ratings do not necessarily indicate poor service, a higher rating does suggest that a department is overall better equipped to respond to fires in a district,” the press release states. “Higher ratings can also significantly lower homeowners insurance rates in that fire district.”

White said the Hamlet Fire Department’s updated capabilities, including training and equipment, are what led to the change.

“As a whole, we have all gotten better at what we do,” White said. “And that makes for a better situation for all that we service in our district.”

The press release states that state law requires departments serving 100,000 people or less — which all but 12 of the state’s districts — to be inspected by the OSFM. Those inspections are generally held every five years.

Inspectors look for “proper staffing levels, sufficient equipment, proper maintenance of equipment communications capabilities, and availability of a water source.”

The Hamlet Fire Department has 31 firefighters — 14 full time and 17 part-time — according to Asst. Chief Richard Lassiter.

White said the department sometimes works with other departments in Scotland County and South Carolina.

“It doesn’t matter who calls us, if we can help, we will do our best to help,” White said.

The chief also offered a message to all the members of the department: “I appreciate all the hard work it took to get us to this level of expertise and to also help the city look better in the eyes of the state, as far as fire service goes.

“These guys have worked hard and they deserve it, the city of Hamlet definitely deserves it.”

In 2019, the Hoffman Fire Department’s rating increased from 6 to 5.

The Rockingham Fire Department has the highest rating in the county at 3.