MATTHEWS - Ten years of hard work has paid off for the Matthews Fire Department and the entire town will reap the benefits. Recent inspection by the Insurance Service Organization led to a lower fire rating in the Matthews area.
The ISO rates fire departments across the country on a 1-10 scale to determine home-owners insurance rates in a community. A one rating is awarded to the best departments and a 10 is given to the worst.
"When the ISO came to town 10 years ago, they gave us an eight rating, which is pretty bad," said T.J. Gantner, Matthews fire chief. "In the first part of March they came again and we just got the news that we lowered our rating to a five."
"We were confident that we had vastly improved the fire department. We were expecting a six and hoping for a five," said Gantner. "We went from a struggling organization to a first class fire department."
The lower rating is not simply a recognition for a job well done. A jump of three points will lower insurance rates for Matthews residents and those within a five mile radius by roughly 10 percent, said Gantner.
The reduced insurance rate goes into effect Sept. 1.
"The lower fire rating will benefit everybody in Matthews, from commercial to residential homes and businesses," said Matthews City Clerk Michael Pyles. "It is all due to the great job the fire department has done. All of our fire fighters are volunteers and have done more for the town than we could have ever asked."
The lower fire rating was the result of a joint effort between the fire department and the town, said Pyles.
Two grants equaling a quarter of a million dollars were given to the fire department in the past five years. This money allowed the Matthews Fire Department pay for a new fire truck and new hoses, nozzles and radios.
The updated equipment plus extended training for the volunteer fire fighters accounted for two points of the drop, said Pyles.
Work by the city accounted for the other point, including the installation of a new water tower, a new well and multiple fire hydrants across the city.
Even with the considerable drop in the fire rating, the Matthews Fire Department is not satisfied and plans to better their program.
"Our goal is to get the fire rating down to at least a four," said Gantner.
Currently, the fire department is working on remodeling an old city shed to turn it into a new office and workout facility.
"Work on the shed is the big project now," said Gantner. "We also plan to keep our training up and continue to update our equipment."
In addition to the expansion, the fire department is working with the city on plans to provide a salary for the firemen serving the Matthews community.
"We are not asking for much, just enough to cover expenses and provide a little incentive for potential fire fighters," said Gantner. "We hope to have that done by the end of the year."
"We are working hand in hand with the volunteers, sometimes monetarily and sometimes physically, to form a first-class fire department," said Pyles. "The goal is not just to lower insurance rates, but to provide safety for the citizens of Matthews."