Weather Forecast


Bemidji Fire Department ISO rating improves

BEMIDJI – The Bemidji Fire Department announced that its ISO rating has improved, which could be good news for people buying insurance in the area.

The department’s rating for properties beyond 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant but within five road miles of a fire station improved from a class nine to a class seven. That new rating will be effective starting in April 2013.

The Public Protection Classification Program ratings go from one to 10 with one being the best.

“We were hoping for a one-point move,” Bemidji Fire Chief Dave Hoefer said. “We certainly weren’t expecting a two-point (move). So that’s a pretty big deal for us.”

Those ratings play a role when many insurance companies write premiums and assess risk. Theoretically, a property in a class seven area would experience less damage then one in a class nine area, Hoefer explained.

In turn, that could mean lower insurance premiums for those in that area.

“ISO is a tool that underwriters use to determine or help determine the amount of damage that may be caused by a fire at a building,” Hoefer said.

Bemidji insurance agent John Carlson, who spent the last two years in the state Legislature, welcomed the news, but emphasized insurance premiums will not automatically go down because of the ISO upgrade. He added that it’s up to the insurance companies to determine what to do with the new ISO ratings.

“The answers are going to vary widely,” he said.

Hoefer cited the department’s ability to carry a lot of water as the main reason for the improvement, thanks to better equipment like newer water tenders and an emphasis on training. ISO uses fire department operations, municipal water distribution systems, and communications to determine ratings, Hoefer said.

Once they move beyond 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant, ISO looks at whether the department can move an adequate amount of water, specifically, the ability to pump 250 gallons of water per minute uninterrupted for two hours, Hoefer said.

For properties within 1,000 feet of a hydrant and five road miles of a fire station, Bemidji’s rating stayed at a class four. The rating for properties more than 1,000 feet from a hydrant and beyond five road miles from a fire station stayed at a class 10.

Only 39 departments have a class three rating in the state, and there are no departments with a one or two classification, according to 2011 data provided by Hoefer.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

(701) 255-5607