Move should save residents on insurance effective this month
Through countless months of hard work by the city of Columbia and the Columbia Fire Department, the city’s fire rating has been dropped from a Class 6 to a Class 5.
Improving the fire rating was one of the main areas Mayor Justin McKenzie ran on during his mayoral campaign, and he said he and city officials are very excited about the development.
Home and business owners will save money on their property insurance with the improved rating, effective May 3, and McKenzie said residents should contact their insurance providers and let them know the fire rating has dropped so that it can be applied to their rates. He added lower ratings is also something that commercial industries look for when seeking out locations for a business.
Fire Chief Jeff McKenzie said the progress has been awesome and will mean a lot to the citizens of Columbia. Internally, the chief said the department had to improve its electronic records, ramp up its training and pass inspections and that it was a long time coming.
“We had truck inspections, breathing apparatus inspections, pump inspections and all of that. There were a lot of things we had to get straightened out,” he said. “The water department was a big help. Color coding the fire hydrants was a big deal and getting them replaced. The water department was really instrumental because they had a big section they had to complete.
Many factors play a role in an area’s rating, including street and water supply conditions. The city, led by Water and Sewer Superintendent Michael McDaniel, replaced 15 fire hydrants throughout town so that they would be within 1,000 feet of locations such as schools, large churches and businesses. It also changed the color of particular hydrants to indicate different flow rates and added blue road flairs to signal where hydrants are located.
While it replaced the hydrants, the city also inserted new water valves on Broad Street, Alberta Avenue and others that would allow for certain areas to be cut off during a repair without compromising an entire street or section of town.
“That’s allowing us to be able to kill and restrict outages to smaller area and keep any type of contaminants if any are involved restricted to smaller areas as well,” Mayor McKenzie said. “That will help in the case of natural disaster or anything that could uproot trees and bust the water lines. We’ll able to get somebody without water back up sooner than we could have before.”
The fire department now has three custom pumpers, an emergency rescue truck, a secondary response truck that is equipped with additional hoses and ladders to respond to any structure fire and a first responder vehicle at both stations.
“We’re not going to stop there. We’re going to seek out a Class 4 fire rating,” the mayor said. “A lot of our larger cities in the state are at a 4 or a 5, and we want to be in contention with all the best. It’s my goal to see Columbia evolve back into one of those leaders in our state.”
Pictured Above: From left, Amy Stutson, Forrest Cawley, Steven Catoire, Willie Stogner, Assistant Chief Lyle Bernard and Chief Jeff McKenzie stand with one of the new emergency response vehicles. | Photo by Joshua Campbell