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County, Newington reach fire coverage deal

POSTED: September 12, 2011 6:05 p.m.

Homeowners in extreme northern Effingham County could be getting a break on their insurance premiums soon.

County commissioners have approved a fire service agreement with the city of Newington that will cover segments of the most northern edges of Effingham County that are difficult to reach quickly by existing county fire stations.

“I’m ready to make it happen as soon as possible,” said Commissioner Steven Mason, whose district includes those areas hard to reach by current fire stations.

The Kildare community is one of the few remaining populated areas of the county beyond five road miles of a county fire station. The distance between homes and a fire station has led to astronomical jumps in homeowners’ insurance, according to county officials, and in some cases, prevented homeowners from even obtaining insurance.

“It’s a real big deal when you talk about homeowners’ insurance,” Effingham Fire Chief Val Ashcraft said. “My main goal is to move as many residents within five miles of a fire station.”

Parts of the county are within five miles of the Newington station and other segments are within five miles of the Oliver fire station, which the Newington department also operates.

The Newington Fire Department has the same ISO rating as the county’s, Ashcraft said, and there are no fire hydrants in the area Newington will cover. The agreement would bring that area from a class 10 to a class 8, which could lead to a substantial savings in insurance premiums, Ashcraft added.

Newington Fire Chief and City Councilman Jack Mock said one homeowner told him he may save as much as $1,700 a year on insurance.

Under the agreement, the county fire department will provide automatic aid to Newington’s fire department within its Effingham coverage area and mutual aid to Newington for Screven County calls.

The county will pay Newington $400 per month, or a total of $4,800 a year, in the agreement.

“Forty-eight hundred dollars to protect those people is money well spent,” said Commissioner Reggie Loper.

The agreement will go into effect Oct. 1 and can be renewed for three additional one-year terms.

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