Some Albany County homeowners could potentially see homeowners insurance rates decline because of a hauled water program implemented by Albany County Fire District No. 1.
About two years ago, the fire district purchased three 4,000-gallon tankers capable of transporting large amounts of water to fires, part of an effort to establish better fire protection in the county, said Jon Essley, a member of the fire district board. The tankers were funded through a combination of state and federal grants.
“We needed some mobile water resources,” Essley said. “What we found in a lot of housing developments outside the city is that they had cisterns, but nobody was maintaining those. And so, a fire truck would go to the fire, pull up to the cistern, and they were empty, they had a leak, they didn’t work, so we needed a better source of water.”
Insurance rates are calculated in part through the ISO, or Insurance Services Office, Inc. A representative from the office conducts community evaluations and assigns a number between one to 10, with one as the best possible score, based on the fire department, communications facilities and community water department and infrastructure, and insurance companies use this data when determining insurance rates.
“The better fire protection you have, the more desirable it is for insurance companies to insure you,” State Farm Agent Galand Thaxton said. “I’m sure it won’t hurt by any stretch of the imagination, the more protection you have.”
Today, Albany County homeowners living within 5 road miles of one of four recognized stations — Centennial Station, Vedauwoo Station, Big Laramie Station and Central Station — now have a Class 5 ISO rating; before the hauled water program was implemented, the entire fire district was categorized as Class 10, with the exception of a small area in Centennial, Essley said. The fire district was notified of the updated ratings earlier this year.
“One of the other board members called up his particular insurance agent and he’s gonna be able to save about $200 a year,” Essley said.
There are 2,556 residential structures in the areas covered by the Central District and the Vedauwoo Volunteer Fire Department, Big Laramie Volunteer Fire Department and Centennial Valley Fire Department, not including properties such as mobile homes.
While all of these properties now have greater access to water through the tankers, the improved insurance rates would only affect the residents living within the 5-mile distance from the stations, Essley said.
The fire district also established a water agreement for new subdivision developers. Instead of paying for cistern installation, developers can opt to pay a specific dollar amount per lot that is placed into a hauled water program account, money that will be put toward purchasing improved fire protection equipment.
“One developer took advantage and a second one is looking into it at this time,” Essley said. “And by county regs, they’re supposed to put in, I think it’s a 30,000-gallon cistern, and this is a lot more effective for them, cost-effective — and a lot more quicker.”
The district plans to continue expanding its hauled water program and hopes to create a new station located south of Laramie, Essley said, explaining the district would either purchase a new tanker for the site or position an existing tanker there.
“Right now, we have no station in that area … immediately south of town there’s a lot of residents that are outside the city limits, so our next expansion that we’re looking at, it is for the central district, and that would be the station south of town,” he said.
Volunteer firefighters in the fire district reacted positively to the new tankers, as regular fire trucks can only carry between 300-1,000 gallons of water, Essley said.
“They like it cause they can get water,” he said. “Two years ago if there was a big fire, they’d have to start squirting and drive to a stream or a lake or whatever to get more water and come back.”