Madison Co. fire officials seek increase in manpower - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Madison Co. fire officials seek increase in manpower

Fire officials urged county commissioners to fund a near quadrupling of the marshal's office staff. (Source: WAFF) Fire officials urged county commissioners to fund a near quadrupling of the marshal's office staff. (Source: WAFF)
MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) -

Madison County Fire Marshal Bobby Rollins urged county commissioners to fund a near quadrupling of the marshal's office staff to perform fire inspections, potentially saving homeowners millions.

“I think we're missing an opportunity to make it better,” said Mike Messex, President of the Association of Volunteer Firefighters of Madison County.

In a presentation to the Madison County Commission Tuesday, Rollins pointed to new standards of the Insurance Services office, which rates communities on their fire risk based on factors like fire equipment, training and fire hydrants.

ISO ratings, a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the best and 10 being the worst, can directly affect fire insurance rates.

Messex said the county's best ISO rating belongs to the Green Mountain community which, served by both Madison County and the City of Huntsville, garners a 3, while the worst, Triana, gets a 10 in some areas.

New ISO standards adopted in 2012 also look closely at a community's regimen of fire inspections, something Messex called an opportunity to improve ISO ratings in some areas, but the Madison County fire marshal's office told the commission it needs more people if it's going to inspect the county's 6000 businesses.

“It would take about nine people,” said Messex. “Well he (Rollins) has a staff of 2 so it came out to be about 7.6 people in addition to what he has now.”

Messex said the new ISO scoring regimen has yet to be applied to Madison County and it was difficult to guess whether its application would make the ISO numbers worse or better given the fire marshal's current staffing levels.

Rollins and Messex estimated that adding an average of 7.5 new staffers to the fire marshal's office would cost the county $400,000, but would importantly benefit the entire county, unlike improvements in individual fire districts which would benefit only the ISO numbers for homeowners in those districts. 

Working on an average home value of $143,000, they calculated an improved inspection staff would save the average homeowner at least $100 a year in insurance premiums, a substantial amount of money that would end up staying in the county instead of being sent out of state to insurance companies. 

“If you look at 110,000 houses on the 2010 census in Madison County and you multiply that by $100 apiece and then you roll it over 4 times and you increase it by the interest and taxation,” said Messex, whose calculations came out to about $11 million returned to the community for spending, jobs and taxes.

Copyright 2014 WAFF. All rights reserved.

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