New Buxton fire rating saves homeowners cash

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Buxton firefighters with the department's new fire truck at the Bar Mills Station are from left, Tyler Merrill, Lt. John MacDonald, Fire Chief Nathan Schools and Roland Turgeon.

Buxton firefighters with the department’s new fire truck at the Bar Mills Station are from left, Tyler Merrill, Lt. John MacDonald, Fire Chief Nathan Schools and Roland Turgeon.

BUXTON — An improved fire protection classification for the town is saving property owners up to 15 percent in insurance costs.

Fire Chief Nathan Schools said the Insurance Services Office, based in New Jersey, in April notified the town that its fire protection classification went up from the previous rating of 9 to a 5. ISO provides statistical information and other services to the insurance industry.

The improved rating for the town went into effect on Aug. 1.

Schools said he’s receiving phone calls from some citizens saying they’re saving up to $200 on their annual homeowners insurance. He recommends that all town’s property owners contact their insurance carriers.

Some citizens are realizing a reduction of insurance costs of up to 12 and 15 percent, Selectman Dennis Santolucito said Tuesday. He praised Schools and the men and women in the fire department for their dedication and hard work that was instrumental in the improved protection classification.

“They’re the ones who made it happen,” Santolucito said.

The 9 rating, Schools said, had only indicated that the communmity has an organized fire department.

Ratings are determined by multiple factors including response times, location of fire stations, fire fighting apparatus, water sources and staff training.

“ISO looks at all these factors,” Schools said.

Santolucito said the improved classification rating is the best possible to achieve for the town that is not served with a pressurized, public water supply.

Santolucito said training of personnel was a significant factor in the classification.

“We have to prove training,” said Schools, who has been fire chief since September 2012. “We train constantly.”

The department has four full-time employees who are cross trained to handle fire and rescue calls; 25 part-time employees; and 50 volunteers on call. Schools has three firefighting deputies and one EMS deputy, but he is the only full-time officer.

The town, encompassing 40 square miles, has fire stations in three sections of town – Bar Mills, Chicopee and Groveville. “We’re spread out,” Schools said.

Last year, the department responded to 1,020 calls. “We do more preparation for a call than we do going to a call,” Schools said.

Selectmen and voters have backed their firefighters. The town has adopted a sprinkler ordinance and state rules for fire protection, Schools said, and the town has been supportive in applying for grants.

The department received a $240,000 grant to fund breathing apparatus for the crew. Schools said the town only was required to pay 5 percent.

The Bar Mills fire station in August received a new, diesel fire truck that cost $415,000 unequipped. It carries 1,000 gallons of water and can pump 1,500 gallons per minute.

Voters approved puchasing the truck at a town meeting. The truck replaces one nearly three decades old that was recently sold to a private party in a bid process.

Each of the department’s three stations has an engine in addition to a tanker-pumper with 4,000 gallons of water.

While the town isn’t served by public water, it has multiple sources to fight fires including 50 dry hydrants in ponds, cisterns in developments, and the Saco River.

The town’s list of mutual aid partners also has a bearing on its classification. The town has agreements with Gorham, Hollis, Saco, Scarborough and Standish.

Stepped-up training has been a key element in the improved fire protection classification. “I appreciate what they’ve done,” Santolucito said.

Schools said the department’s personnel have put “sweat and effort” into their jobs. “They give back to their community,” Schools said.

To review or download the ISO classification report, residents can visit Buxtonfr.org. Those with questions can reach Schools at 929-3099.

Robert Lowell can be reached at 854-2577 or [email protected]

The control panel on Buxton’s new fire truck at the Bar Mills Station.