Three years of hard work have paid off for the Choctaw Volunteer Fire Department.

An onsite review of the department’s facilities was done in March, and the department has received an ISO rating of 5, which takes effect Sept. 1, 2014. The department’s former rate was 9.

The rating of 5 will apply to all structures within five highway miles from either the Choctaw station or the Barrens Community Station. This should cover all properties in the district except those structures at the very east end of Highway 336 east.

Homeowners insurance is priced not only on the value of the building but is raised or lowered by the local fire departments ISO rating. Most of the homes outside of the cities in Van Buren County are rated at an ISO of 9. Homeowners in the areas rated at a 5 should see a substantial savings in their homeowners insurance in the upcoming year. Homeowners need to make sure their insurance agent has the information on the new ISO rating for Choctaw Fire Department.

Several fire departments are working to lower their ISO ratings. This is not a simple overnight task. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) sets the standards for what a fire department must have in equipment and provide in the way of water to be rated at a specific ISO rating. Some of the rating goes to the amount of equipment the department has, additionally the amount of training the fire department members perform is also included. A big part is the ability of the fire department to have an adequate amount and flow of water.

Over the past several years Choctaw Fire Department has upgraded its two pumper engines, placed three new tanker units in service and has received donations of a service truck and command unit. Each fire engine must have specific equipment on it and the service truck must have specific equipment on it. Two of the tanker units each haul 2,000 gallons of water and the third unit hauls 3,000 gallons of water. When a call comes in the Choctaw Fire Department units roll with a combined total of 8,500 gallons of water. The water from the tankers is dumped into tanks set up on the fire scene, and then the tankers go to specific locations to refill and haul water to the fire scene. This way the firefighters have water to start fighting the fire as soon as the fire engine arrives on the scene.

Choctaw Fire Department is working to build and equip a fire station on the east end of Highway 336 east. To do this the department will need land for the station, money to build the station and funds to purchase another fire engine and service truck along with the equipment needed on both. It is an expensive proposition. Beyond the monetary cost, the is an added item — people. The department will need folks from the Highway 336 area to step up. It is not going to help much if the firefighters have to drive 15 miles to get to the proposed Highway 336 station. Aside from fighting fires, folks can help in other ways — cutting the grass around the stations, cleaning up the stations, just to name a couple.

In addition to working to lower homeowner insurance rates this past year, your Choctaw Fire Department has answered 36 fire calls within the district, 10 automatic aid calls with neighboring fire departments and 20 medical first responder calls.

Choctaw Fire Department meetings are always open to the public. Meetings are held on the first Monday evening of the month starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Choctaw Station on Highway 65 south.

For more information call Chief Lamar Harvey at 501-253-1821 or Joey Weaver at 501-757-0201.