The Renton Regional Fire Authority (RRFA) is now listed among the best in state according to the Washington Surveying & Rating Bureau.
The fire authority received an improved Protection Class rating from a class 3 to a class 2. The new rating goes into effect Feb. 1, 2019.
And residents in Fire District 25 and Fire District 40 will see the Protection Class rating improve from a class 4 to a class 3.
The Protection Class rating system reflects the capabilities of the fire protection system within a community, according to a release from the RRFA.
Every five years, the bureau evaluates fire departments throughout the state.
According to Renton Fire Chief Rick Marshall, this years evaluation took about a month to complete.
He said first the bureau sends the department a list of questions and staff members begin to compile information including training records, truck maintenance records and water records.
Following the completion of providing the bureau with the necessary records and documents, an onsite visit occurs. Marshall said this years visit took about three hours.
He said during the evaluation process five years ago, the onsite visit took three days. He added this was because the department had a hard time producing the necessary records.
The last time Renton was evaluated, Marshall said the department “narrowly escaped going to a class 4.”
He credits the department’s new recording system as the reason why this years onsite visit was so much shorter than the last time. He also said it took less staff time to compile the required documents.
Two factors why District 25 and District 40, both who use services of the RRFA, did not improve to the same class rating were the fire marshal services (including inspectors) the authority provides and the water district.
He said for the Regional Authority, the city manages the water and unlike those districts, who are in unincorporated King County, a higher fire load is provided within city limits.
Marshall said when the department came to voters asking them to approve the fire authority, they told voters they were committed to a higher level of service.
This new and improved rating shows the public just that.
“We set out with a strategic plan and two and a half years later this is living proof of us making good on our promises,” Marshall said.
For the public, Marshall said this rating could provide them with lower insurance rates whether you own a home or business.
The reason being, he said, is this new rating shows the property is safer now than it was five years ago when the last evaluation was completed.
Marshall stated insurance companies do take other factors into consideration so residents should check with their provider to see if a lower rate can be applied.
In Marshall’s 35 years with the department and a little over two years as chief he said, “This is the biggest deal of my tenure with the department.”
Currently, there are no class 1 fire departments in the state of Washington, Marshall said.
Even the Seattle Fire Department, who Marshall credits as being the gold standard, is listed as a class 2.
“I take pride in saying we’re on the top of fire and emergency services in the state,” he said.
When asked about the process of getting to a class 1, the best rating there is, Marshall said often times chiefs have to think about what they can do. He said the evaluation process is also difficult and it takes a look at every aspect within a department.
“It is not a one (person)thing,” he said. “The rating isn’t because I am chief, it comes from every department and every person in the organization.”
He even credited the city, governance board and citizens as having ownership in this improved safety rating.
For more information on the RRFA and the improved rating, visit www.rentonrfa.com/.