By Barbara Davis | Staff writer

After nearly three years of efforts to lower the Hardin County ESD No. 6 ISO (Insurance Service Office) rating, President Matt Dulaney said not only was the rating lowered from 9 to 5 — which is a good thing — but the Silsbee Volunteer Fire Department is better than ever to serve citizens. better equipped.

“Obviously, we wanted to lower the rating, but the important part is protecting the citizens and being able to get water to them quickly,” Dulaney said. “We want citizens outside the city limits to be afforded the same protection as citizens inside the city limits.”

In an effort to better serve residents, ESD No. 6 has strategically placed water tank trucks across the district to ensure adequate water supply for all.

The department has maintained a Class A engine, a tanker and a trio of three brush trucks since 2015, with a newly purchased high-water rescue brush truck arriving in July.

“The high-water rescue brush truck was purchased with $200,000 in grant money from Hurricane Harvey,” said Silsbee VFD Fire Chief Robin Jones.

ESD No. 6 also purchased a new tanker for $400,000, which was regularly budgeted. According to people close to the initiative, maintenance and new equipment purchases have positively impacted ESD’s recent efforts to lower the district’s ISO rating.

Although not all insurance companies consider ISO ratings when setting home insurance rates, many do, and local homeowners outside city limits are reporting up to $900 in annual savings on their homeowner’s policies after an ISO rating reduction of ESD No. 6.

ISO ratings are meant to score a fire department’s ability to protect the community, and a number of factors are considered when applying a rating, such as emergency communication systems, training and equipment, water supply and community risk mitigation. On a scale of 1 to 10, with “1” being the most preferred rating, ESD No. 6 has held a 9 rating for many years.

Residents outside the city limits are encouraged to contact their insurance companies to make sure agencies are notified of rating changes and to ask about possible discounts available as a result.

“We had to prove the water supply, and they went out there with a stopwatch to check our response time,” Dulaney said. “It’s good all around for everyone.”

In an effort to better serve citizens, ESD No. 6 broke ground on the new Silsbee VFD Fire Station in September 2022, with a centralized location to allow for better response times.

“The new station will get us to the highway faster, and it’s at the intersection of FM 92 and FM 418,” said Jones, who added that there is no tax increase associated with the new station, which is a budget item. Jones said current tax revenue allows for 10 years of funding and the current fire station, located in a residential area, has had the unfortunate pleasure of being caught behind a train on several occasions while responding to emergencies.

“The new fire station is the best move in quite some time, and will be a wind-rated building with double-wide bay stations capable of stacking eight engines instead of four in an emergency,” Dulaney said.

The state-of-the-art station is slated to open this summer, with a target for late August. Live oaks remain where John Henry Kirby Elementary School once stood, driveways have been plumbed and electrical conduit installed. Erection of the red steel frame began last month.

The new station is being built by McInnis Construction, Inc.

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