City's fire rating better

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By JOSHUA WOLFSON

Now might be a good time to give your insurance company a call.

The city learned Tuesday that its firefighting rating has been upgraded. That could save some business and homeowners money, said Sonora Fire Chief Mike Barrows.

The rating, made by Insurance Services Office Inc., is used by insurance companies to set their fire premiums. The lower the number, the smaller the insurance premium for homes and businesses.

ISO gave the city a rating of four on a 10-point scale, an improvement over its past score of six in the downtown areas and nine in the more rural zones, Barrows said.

"What this means is the ... city is providing a higher level of emergency services," he said.

Better equipment, training and the city's new fire station on Shepherd Street contributed to the improved rating, said Barrows, who will brief the City Council on Monday on the change.

City Administrator Greg Applegate said Sonora residents should check with their insurance companies regarding the new ISO rating.

"This could be a substantial savings," he said.

Applegate said the city might save money on its own fire insurance, although he has not checked the details yet.

When ISO last graded Sonora in 1982, the city was given the split rating because its firefighting abilities varied significantly between the core and rural areas, Applegate said.

Property owners who live in areas that received a nine on the old ISO grading might be in for a big break on their fire insurance bills, said Pete Kleinert of Cutler Segerstrom, a Sonora insurance agency.

"That's a big jump," he said. "That is a Cadillac to a Volkswagen."

Home owners who have been paying $800 to $1,000 annually for fire insurance could see their rates decline to the $500 to $600 range.

"Going from a nine to a four is a big deal," he said.

Business owners in areas that were ranked as a six by ISO could see their premiums decline by about 10 percent, Kleinert said.

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