January 2, 2014 in Washington Voices

Spokane Valley fire hydrant find may save homeowners cash

By The Spokesman-Review

Eleven property owners south of 36th Avenue off Conklin Road got an unexpected Christmas present when they were notified of a mapping error that could save them hundreds of dollars on their homeowners insurance.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department determined that the homes were located within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant even though it had been determined decades ago that they were not. Their Community Protection Class is dropping from an 8A to a 3. The ratings are used to determine the cost of an insurance policy.

Assistant Fire Marshal Clifton Mehaffey said he owns property in Idaho that is dropping from an 8 PC rating to a 3 and it will save him 20 percent on his insurance. How much homeowners save rests on a large number of variables, however. “Where it’s located will make a difference and I suppose the type of property, whether it’s commercial or residential, will make a difference.”

The mapping mistake dates back about 30 years, Mehaffey said. “We just happened to stumble on it,” he said. “It wasn’t so much that the hydrants were mislocated; the streets were mislocated. It was kind of bizarre. Our maps were hand-drawn from years and years ago.”

The new insurance ratings for the 11 homes will not be the last. The department is planning to install new hydrants over the next several years in areas with vast distances between hydrants, primarily in Greenacres and Otis Orchards. Mehaffey said there is half a mile between hydrants in some areas.

Mehaffey has already located several properties in the Green Ridge area east of Liberty Lake that will see changes. A couple of homes were incorrectly indicated to be more than five miles from the nearest fire station and one had the wrong distance to the nearest hydrant. He also discovered that Zephyr Lodge has an 8 PC rating while all the homes around it have a rating of 3.

Other homes will see their ratings drop when the new hydrants are installed. There could be more than a dozen added in Otis Orchards alone. “We don’t have those locations chosen yet,” Mehaffey said. “We don’t know how many homes are going to be affected until we choose the spots.”

Once the locations are determined, the department will work with the local water district on the installation. The department will pay about $3,000 for each hydrant and necessary equipment while the water districts will pay about $2,500 for labor and other installation costs for each one. The work will likely take place over several years.

“It’s costly,” Mehaffey said. “It’s kind of like plumbing on steroids.”

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