Lt. Ricky Mitchell, center, watches as driver-operator Shane Warner, left, and probationary firefighter Shane Woodard practice ladder drills behind the main fire station earlier this month. (Staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
A topnotch fire department translates into more state funding and lower insurance rates for city homeowners and businesses.
Clovis is one of five New Mexico fire departments out of 99 with a state-best rating of three, according to a national rating system that is the benchmark used by insurance companies to gauge fire protection ability.
A good rating is an assurance responders have the tools they need to be safe and effective, and in turn reflects their ability to serve the community, according to Clovis Fire Chief Ray Westerman.
“I think on a large scale, a better rated department is better prepared to fight fire,” he said. “It’s something that a fire chief needs to be concerned with.
“The whole community shouldn’t suffer for a mismanaged service. The community is the reason for our presence and existence, and every member is entitled to our best efforts.”
Larger municipalities generally fared better in the Public Protection Classification ratings, which are based on availability and access to water, dispatch and alarm systems in place, fire personnel, training and equipment, according to the Insurance Services Office’s Web site.
Westerman is determined to improve his department’s rating.
A new aerial truck, a training tower and facility, new equipment and an increased staff from 63 to 69 are some of the major steps taken in anticipation of the department’s next evaluation, which Westerman said will come in the next couple of years.
Clovis’ last evaluation was conducted in 1997, Westerman said. The evaluations typically come every 10 to 12 years unless a community experiences a noticeable population increase, he said.
Local insurance agent Mona Bryant said she uses the rating system in calculating policies. However, she said most policies would only see a change of a couple dollars or less with an improved rating.
Bryant stressed that although a rating improvement would not mean money in hand to most, having a fire department geared toward constant improvement is invaluable to the community.
“People have that comfort in knowing that they’re there,” she said. “I think that they are providing a service to us that people don’t see until they need it.”
A sampling of municipality Public Protection Classification ratings in New Mexico. Classification ratings are based on availability and access to water, dispatch and alarm systems in place, fire personnel, training and equipment.
• Albuquerque 3
• Alamogordo 5
• Carlsbad 5
• Gallup 6
• Hobbs 3
• Rio Rancho 4
• Roswell 3
• Tucumcari 5
• Broadview 9
• Clovis 3
• Field 9
• Grady 8
• Melrose 5
• Pleasant Hill 9
• Texico 5
Source: 1997 Inusrance Systems Office evaluations submitted to the New Mexico Fire Marshall’s office