Written by Barbara Davis | Staff writer

After nearly three years of efforts to downgrade Hardin County’s ISO No. 6 ESD (Insurance Services Bureau) rating, Chief Matt Dulaney says not only has the rating been downgraded from 9 to 5 — which is a good thing — but the Silsbee Volunteer Fire Department is better equipped. ever to serve the citizens.

“Of course, we wanted to downgrade, but the important part is protecting citizens and being able to get water to them quickly,” Dulaney said. “We want citizens outside the city limits to have the same protection as those within the city limits.”

In an effort to better serve the residents, ESD No. 6 has strategically placed water tanker trucks throughout the area, to ensure sufficient water supplies for all.

The department has maintained three Class A engines, a tanker, and three brush trucks since 2015, with a newly purchased high-water salvage truck scheduled to arrive in July.

“The high-water brush truck was purchased with $200,000 in grant money from Hurricane Harvey,” said Robin Jones, Silsbee VFD Chief Fire Officer.

It also purchased ESD No. 6 new tanker for $400,000, which was in the regular budget. Maintenance and procurement of new equipment has positively impacted ESD’s recent efforts to reduce the region’s ISO rating, according to those closest to the initiative.

Although not all insurance companies consider ISO ratings when setting home insurance rates, many do, and local homeowners outside the city limits report up to $900 in annual savings on private homeowner policies. Their ESD, after being downgraded to No. 6 in its ISO rating.

ISO classifications aim to record the fire department’s ability to protect the community, and many factors are taken into account when applying the classification, such as emergency communication systems, training and equipment, water supply, and community risk reduction. Ranging from 1 to 10, with a rating of “1” as the most favorable rating, ESD No. 6 has had a rating of 9 for many years.

Residents outside city limits are encouraged to contact their insurance companies to ensure that the agencies are aware of the rating change and to inquire about possible discounts available as a result.

“We had to prove the water supply, and they went out there with a stopwatch to check our response times,” Dulaney said. “It’s better all around for everyone.”

In an effort to better serve citizens, ESD No. 6 broke ground on the new Silsbee VFD Fire Station in September 2022, with a central location to allow for better response times.

“The new station will get us onto the interstate quickly, and it’s right at the intersection of FM 92 and FM 418,” Jones said, adding that there is absolutely no tax increase with the new station, which is a budget line item. Jones said that current tax revenue allows for 10-year financing and that the existing fire station, located in a residential area, had the unfortunate pleasure of being caught behind a train on several occasions when responding to emergencies.

“The new fire station is the best move in some time,” Dulaney said, “and it will be a windproof building with spacious double bay stations capable of stacking eight engines instead of four in times of emergency.”

The state-of-the-art plant is scheduled to be commissioned this summer, with the target for late August. Live oaks remained where John Henry Kirby Elementary School was located, and driveways were poured with plumbing and electrical conduits installed. Installation of the red steel frame began last month.

The new terminal is being constructed by McInnis Construction, Inc.

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