Plum Grove Fire Department attains ISO rating, may save property owners money

Plum Grove Fire Chief Brandon Frazier (right) and Asst. Chief James Autrey are proud of the department's new ISO rating. The department is made up of all volunteers.

Property owners in the Plum Grove area might be saving money on their insurance rates soon, thanks to the efforts of the all-volunteer Plum Grove Volunteer Fire Department.

For the first time ever, Plum Grove Volunteer Fire Department has attained a rating from the Insurance Services Office, which scores the quality of a community or city’s fire protection service. The best score is a 1 and the lowest possible score is a 10.

PGFD attained a respectable ISO rating of 5/5X, much higher than Fire Chief Brandon Frazier initially anticipated.

“I was secretly shooting for a 6 but expecting an 8. When I found out we got a 5/5X, I started making phone calls to the firefighters. No one went to sleep after that because we were so excited,” Frazier said.

The first number of the split rating – 5 – applies to structures within five road miles of the fire station on FM 1010 and within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant. The second number – 5X – applies to structures within five road miles of the fire station but not within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant.

“When we get another fire station, the rating would carry over and become five miles of that station as well,” he said.

Chief Frazier, who does double-duty as the police chief for the City of Plum Grove and works full-time as a police officer for a law enforcement agency in Polk County, gives all the credit for the ISO rating to his team of dedicated volunteers.

“Not a single member of our fire department is paid, and with calls increasing the way they have and all the growth that is coming our way, we are now serving a population that has grown from 800 people to tens of thousands. I think the latest estimation I have is there are 50,000 people now living in the Plum Grove area,” Frazier said.

Last year, PGVFD responded to 675 calls. This year, as of Aug. 1, the department has already responded to 571 calls and there are five months left in the year.

“If you compare to the same period as last year, we are at a 57 percent increase in calls,” the chief said.

A charter school and four new Cleveland ISD campus have been built in the Plum Grove area since 2021, and the need for fire service is only expected to continue growing.

Liberty County Fire Marshal Bill Hergemueller said PGVFD’s leadership and firefighters should be commended for accomplishing the ISO rating.

“I am very proud of them. It’s a significant accomplishment and they have come a long way,” he said. “I encourage all other fire departments, especially the emergency services districts, in Liberty County to work on getting their ISO ratings or getting their ISO rating as low as it can be.”

Insurance companies use the ISO rate in determining the rates for property and homeowners insurance. The lower the score, the better the insurance rates should be because a lower score indicates a lower fire risk.

Frazier said PGVFD began working on the ISO rating in 2018 when he was assistant chief.

“Volunteer members of the department have ensured a consistent high level of staffing, collectively logging more that 3,000 hours on-duty at the station monthly, and that calls for service have had rapid response and on scene times. The department developed a more detailed training program and improved mutual aid services with surrounding departments,” Frazier said.

It’s a long-term process and not something that is accomplished overnight.

“You have to do things consistently for years. Some records have to be five years old. We have been making sure our station was staffed around-the-clock so we can respond quickly to calls and get there in an appropriate amount of time,” he said.

Response time was only one factor in assessing the ISO rating. A mitigation team from ISO also worked with the department regarding their training programs, certification plans, vehicle maintenance and equipment, report writing, recordkeeping, communication standards and officer development program, among other items.

Before it is formally approved, the ISO preliminary rating will be sent to the Texas Fire Marshal’s Office, which will sign off on it and then notify the department by mail.

In addition to volunteers, PGVFD relies heavily on grant funding to meet their growing needs. Insurance to cover the department’s equipment and personnel runs for around $35,000. The bulk of other funding comes from $72,000 from Liberty County, $7,200 from the City of Plum Grove, $4,800 from El Norte Property Owners (for the Colony Ridge communities south of Plum Grove).

“We write a lot of grants, a lot. We cut every expense we can. I just put in for a million dollar grant for a new tanker truck,” Frazier said.

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