1000 x 90

Meat Camp Volunteer Fire Department Earns Commendable Rating, Some Homeowners to See Decreased Insurance Rates

Members of the Meat Camp Volunteer Fire Department celebrate the results of their recent inspection, which will eventually benefit many homeowners in their district.

By Sherrie Norris

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Meat Camp Volunteer Fire Department, homeowners within a five-mile driving distance of the fire station will see a decrease in their property insurance rates, effective Nov. 1.

That news was delivered to Fire Chief Ben Winebarger recently in a letter from Mike Causey, Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshall, who congratulated Winebarger and his department upon successfully completing a rigorous inspection that resulted in the improved rating from a 9 to a 5 insurance classification

“I commend you and your department for your dedication and commitment to making your community a safe place to live,” Causey said. “I know you are proud of your department’s achievement. I also know that the majority of citizens may not be aware that the rating of their responding fire department directly impacts their property insurance calculation. You deserve to brag a little about the expertise of your personnel, which saves homeowners money and, most importantly, makes their lives safer.”

Causey explained that the North Carolina Response Rating System ranges from one (highest) to 10 (not recognized as a certified fire department by the state), with most rural departments falling into the 9S category. “While lower rates do not necessarily indicate poor service, a high rate does suggest that a department is overall better equipped to respond to fires in its district. Higher ratings can also significantly lower homeowners rates in that fire district.”

Winebarger was notified on July 30 that the inspection, which was conducted in May by officials with the Department of Insurance Office of State Fire Marshal, received a commendable 5/9E rating, effective Nov. 1, 2018.  

Winebarger was joined at the fire station on Monday by Watauga County Fire Marshal Taylor Marsh as they congratulated the department’s firefighters during a celebration meal prepared by the women’s auxiliary.

“I just can’t say enough about how hard everyone has worked to make this happen,” said Winebarger. “We have spent several years working toward this goal in an effort to help the people we serve. We have an excellent team here who puts the needs of others before themselves and it’s something we can all feel good about.”

“You’ve done an excellent job,” Marsh added, “This is something to be very proud of.”

Winebarger, along with his leadership team, said on Monday that it was something that didn’t come easily, but it was well worth the extra hours that were invested in the preparation and testing.

According to Amy Snider, fire department secretary, the process occurred over a four-year period with the volunteers logging in 4,184 hours of training in 2017, alone.

As part of the inspection, Causey said, the NC Response Rating System looked for a number of different things, including proper staffing levels, training, sufficient equipment, proper maintenance of equipment, communication and alarms, response to structure fires, capabilities and availability of a water source, incident reporting and record keeping.

“The purpose of our visit was to gather information to determine a fire insurance classification, which may be used in the calculation of property insurance premiums,” said Davie Summey, Supervisor of Inspections. “The survey was not conducted for property loss prevention of life safety purposes,” he noted, adding that Class 5 applies to properties with a fire flow of 3500 gallons of water (or less) per minute. “Class 9E applies to all other properties within the fire district outside of the 5 miles, but no more than 6 miles.

Speaking for his team of volunteers, Assistant Chief Buddy Adisey said, “We did it not only to better ourselves, but also as a service to our community,” adding that when the department requested the re-rating, they knew that it would require a lot of extra time and energy to obtain their goal.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors for Meat Camp Volunteer Fire Department , I’d like to thank all the firefighters for making this happen,” said Captain/Board President, Kevin Norris. “While the state requires 36 hours of training annually for each of our members, we have averaged more than 100 hours per person for the last three years. That takes a lot of discipline and the desire to do what’s best for the community. We have set a high precedence for ourselves, but it’s something we’ll continue working for and try to improve upon every year.”

Norris noted the importance of recognizing other area fire departments for their mutual aid assistance in helping them achieve their goal. “We couldn’t have done this without their help and we really appreciate them for being there with us.”

According to Marsh, Meat Camp is the only fully-volunteer staffed fire department in the county to obtain this recent classification.

It was the pleasure of Causey’s staff, he said, to work with Winebarger and members of his staff during their recent survey of the department. “I’d like to congratulate Chief Winebarger for the department’s performance and for the hard work of all the department members. The citizens (in the Meat Camp fire district) should rest easy knowing they have a fine group of firefighters protecting them and their property in case of an emergency. Working together, we can continue to make North Carolina a safer place to live and work.”

Currently, there are 43 members on the roster at Meat Camp Volunteer Fire Department, including five junior firefighters, Snider said, with longevity a key factor in overall successful leadership. Chief Winebarger has been with the department for 46 years; Assistant Chief Buddy Adisey, 44 years, and Deputy Chief Pete Wilson, 43 years.

In addition to the aforementioned, officers include Captain Kevin Norris, Lieutenants Darren Moretz and Bradley Moretz, Secretary Amy Snider, (one of three women on the roster) and Lesley Marsh, training officer.