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Sunnyside due to have its firefighting capabilities surveyed

The city of Sunnyside is overdue for grading of its fire services, which provides a calculation for fire insurance rates, according to Sunnyside Fire Battalion Chief Bill Harris.

Monday he told the city council Sunnyside has not received a grade since 2002. The Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau will conduct a grading of fire services upon request or a re-inspection is typically conducted on a seven-year cycle.

Sunnyside, said Harris, was due for re-inspection in 2009 and he expects the bureau will soon be conducting its survey and grading process in the near future.

To provide council with an idea of what to expect, he presented the 2002 results.

"They (the Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau) find 10 to 15 of the largest buildings in the city and calculate the fire flow," Harris said.

He said all fire systems and apparatus are evaluated, as well.

In February 2002 Sunnyside was given a class five grade. Of 5,000 possible points, Sunnyside was given 2,275. Harris said that placed the city in the point range of a class five rating.

He said the areas where the city lost points included a lack of a ladder truck; the number of companies and types of apparatus; the design, maintenance and condition of apparatus; insufficient staffing and officers; engine and ladder company unit staffing levels; training; communications; and fire safety control.

Some areas with deficiencies, said Harris, have improved. Updated apparatus, including a 2006 fire engine, and updated communications will improve grades given in those areas.

"I predict points will be lost because our volunteer ranks are smaller, but we have one increased staff member...I think that will be a wash," he told council.

Harris said the city still doesn't have a ladder truck, which accounts for 45 points lost. He said points would be gained in other grading areas with the addition of a ladder truck, as well.

When asked how Sunnyside firefighters expect to fight a fire on buildings like the new Sunnyside High School addition and a proposed expansion of Sunnyside Community Hospital, Harris said Sunnyside firefighters would not be able to fight a fire from the roof. "We would have to request assistance," he said, explaining Grandview has a ladder truck.

Use of that ladder truck, however, doesn't improve the rating for Sunnyside because the Grandview Fire Station is more than five miles from much of Sunnyside.

Harris said he also expects an improved grade for fire safety control. He said, "I expect to get nearly 480 points for fire safety control because the fire marshal position has been filled."

He also noted the last rating was given based on standards set in 1974. The standards will soon be changed, and Harris said those changes may or may not positively affect the city of Sunnyside.

"I checked because I thought I had bad information," Harris said, stating he thought the 1974 standards weren't accurate.

A 2011 book of standards is due out, but it has not yet been released.

When asked about the effect the rating has on insurance rates, he told council different insurance agencies calculate rates differently. One serves residential customers and said insurance rates would be decreased by 10 percent if Sunnyside's rating is improved. Another insurance company told Harris it doesn't use the rating for setting its rates.

"So we may be preparing for something that isn't necessary," said Councilman Don Vlieger.

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