SEAL ROCK — Several residents of the Seal Rock Rural Fire Protection District recently saw a significant bump in their house insurance premiums, a side effect of a recent evaluation by the Insurance Services Office, an independent research company that provides data to insurance providers to inform rates.

Several Seal Rock Fire District residents took to social media last month to complain about a recent spike in their insurance premiums. One resident, Laura Gill, who lives in the Beaver Creek area, told the News-Times her rate went up 40 percent, from around $2,000 a year to more than $3,000.

According to Seal Rock Fire Chief Will Ewing, despite a rocky few months at the district, the spike in rates has little to do with any recent changes and is actually the result of an evaluation conducted last year under prior chief Tom Sakaris and the prior board of directors, which changed how parts of the district were classified.

On Oct. 1, 2021 the Insurance Services Office created a Public Protection Classification report for Seal Rock based on an evaluation conducted the previous year. That report changed the district from a split 4/4Y 8(B) ISO rating to a 4/10 rating. The first portion of the rating, 4, applies to areas in the district within five miles of a fire station and is an improvement that could decrease insurance rates for some. The second part of the rating, 10, is the worst rating one can have and applies to locations outside those five miles.

Insurance companies use the ISO rating to determine how much of a risk it is to insure a property, and some providers refuse to insure properties with too poor of a rating.

The process that determines a rating is complicated, but the quality of the local fire district, its coverage and what equipment it has usually makes up half the conditions scored. The local water district and water availability make up another 40 percent, while the quality of emergency dispatch and communications in the area cover the remaining 10 percent.

According to fire board member Paul Rimola, part of the equation is how far a property is from the fire station and how long it would take firefighters to get there in an emergency, factoring in speed limits and road lanes. In this case, residents of the most rural parts of the fire district have been rated at a 10, as they’re too far from both the Seal Rock and Bayshore stations and from neighboring district’s stations.

After evaluating the situation, Ewing said the only solution would be for the district to build a new station, an endeavor that could cost up to $500,000. He said there are some options any property owners can take to lower their rates, however, such as installing a sprinkler system or funding a fire hydrant near their home.

Rimola added insurance rates are currently on the rise, regardless of the recent change with the district’s rating, and any recent spikes likely involve multiple factors.

“Last year, my son called me from Hillsboro to tell me his insurance rate just doubled,” Rimola said. “I talked to my insurance agent, and they said it was partly because of the fire and because building materials were going up. My advice for people is to shop around, maybe find a broker.”

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