Norwood and Center Rural districts improve fire ratings after state inspections

Officials say new ratings for local fire departments mean safer community, lower rates

Downtown Norwood | Christine Nguyen, North State Journal


ALBEMARLE — Citizens in and around Norwood may rest a little easier knowing their fire departments are in the top 10 percent across the state, but according to N.C. Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey they may also get lower homeowners’ insurance rates because of it. Causey recently announced the results of state inspections of the Center Rural Fire Department, which is the contract operator of the Town of Norwood Fire Department.

The Center Rural Fire District was previously rated a 7 out of 10, with 1 being the best rating and 10 being not recognized as a certified fire department. The rural district now rates an overall 5, with a few areas rating a 9 for distance to a firehouse.   The Norwood Fire District — which is managed by the Center Rural Volunteer Fire Department — jumped from a 6 to a 4 rating. According to the N.C. Department of Insurance, more than one third of rural fire departments across the state are rated a 9.

According to the NC Department of Insurance, the routine inspections look for proper staffing levels, sufficient equipment, proper maintenance of equipment, communications capabilities and availability of water.  A lower rating doesn’t necessarily mean poor service, but a higher rating could mean a lot to homeowners and business owners.  Center Rural Fire Chief Vaughn Rummage, of Norwood, led the department’s recent effort to modernize its equipment and achieve a better fire rating for the district, and lower insurance rates for residents.

“I want to congratulate the chief and the firefighters and staff for their accomplishment. It’s no easy task to achieve that level,” said Causey.  “The citizens of the towns of these districts should rest easy knowing they have a fine group of firefighters protecting them and their property in case of an emergency.”

“In many cases, if a fire department’s ratings improve that can also lead to lower homeowner’s insurance and lower business rates,” he added.

A 2013 report from the Office of the State Fire Marshal shows that a move from a 7 score to a 5 score could mean an annual homeowners insurance premium savings of over $60 for a $100,000 wooden home and a decrease in commercial property insurance costs.

Norwood’s new 4 rating puts the fire department is in the top 10% for ratings across the state.  Rummage credits better equipment and education for the improvement.

“We upgraded a lot of equipment and improved our training,” said Rummage. “We purchased a ladder truck which helped a lot with the rating.”

“The bottom line is that we owed the community the best rate we could get,” he said.

Other than the Albemarle Fire Department, the Center Rural Fire Department responds to more calls each year than any of the other 14 fire departments in Stanly County. Its reach is critical to the safety of Stanly County residents, but the state’s Chief Fire Marshal Brian Taylor, who is responsible for the more than 1,200 fire departments and 1,500 districts across the state, says the Center Rural Department is particularly special to him because it is where he started his career as a firefighter.

“Chief Rummage, my dad (Asst. Chief Toby Taylor), and the Center Rural Volunteer Fire Department mean a lot to me by allowing me the opportunity to become a Junior firefighter at age 16 and shape me to who I am today,” said Taylor. “Without them believing in me I would not be where I’m at today.”

Improvements in Norwood and the Center Rural district are continuing. According to Rummage, a new station in Norwood, right on Main Street, will open in mid-to-late 2018.