Dry Hydrant installed in the Whitfield Community.


All fire departments in Alabama, whether they are paid or volunteer, are rated on a cyclical basis by the Insurance Service Office. The ISO inspection looks at the department’s training and equipment as well as the water system that services the area. It was often the case that one or the other of the inspected areas would keep a department form achieving a better score. The fact that the rating schedule was the same regardless of the department type made it difficult for many volunteer fire departments to lower their ratings. For many years most departments in the area maintained a class nine rating or split ratings down to a six. The split rating system placed one rating on properties that were within five miles of a station and 1000 feet of a fire hydrant. In many cases this meant that those who live in rural areas would never receive the lower rating and insurance providers could charge them the higher rate. This trend began to be reversed in 1999 when Sumter County Voters approved the property tax that was directed at the volunteer fire service. All departments in Sumter County began receiving $16,000 or so each year from this tax. This money was applied to the modernization of equipment, apparatus and training enhancements at most departments.


In the fall of 2015, the ISO visited Sumter County and inspected nine of the municipal and volunteer fire departments in the county. The South Sumter area had three departments that were inspected during this visit and each agency received a major improvement in the score for their area. Cuba, Siloam and Ward Fire Departments were the departments that were inspected. The old rating for Cuba had been a 6/9 and residents in area that are within a 1,000 feet of a hydrant received the 6 rating. The new rating for Cuba is a 5/5x which places any address within five miles of the station at the new rating. Plans are underway to achieve next rating of a 4/4x within the next two years. The score should not be difficult to achieve with the groundwork that has been put in place by the officers and firefighters.


Siloam had a rating of 7/9 before the visit and Siloam has dropped to a 5/5x as well. This represents a substantial drop in the rating due to the small number of hydrants that are found in the Siloam area. The hard work of the fire department officers and firefighters as well as the massive investment in a new engine and a new tanker have allowed the department to receive the much improved rating. Siloam is working toward the next rating and plans to have ISO back within the next two years.


Ward Fire Department also had a rating of 7/9 prior to the inspection and dropped their rating to a 5/5x as well. The characteristics of the Ward area are similar to Siloam. The new rating is a combination of the work put in by members and the new apparatus that has been purchased. The Ward department is working to address issues that will allow it to drop its rating to the next level as well.



York Fire Departments Engine and Ward Fire Departments Tanker at a structure fire in Cuba on 2-8-16.  Automatic Aid was utilized on this call to bring more than enough resources to bear.

The largest deciding factor besides the departments working to have all members certified as firefighters and the new apparatus purchases has been the creation of an automatic aid/battalion system. No longer are departments in the South Sumter area having to handle calls as a single unit. When an alarm sounds pre-designated responses are put into action and up to three departments are dispatched on the initial call. If the call is in a rural area a tanker strike team is ordered to respond as well. In most cases this will bring sufficient manpower and just over 10,000 gallons of water to the scene of the fire in a reasonable period of time. The automatic aid system has allowed the departments to help each other and to cooperate to save lives and property as well as dollars on your insurance premiums.


Besides the financial shortages that plague departments operating on the small amount of money received, departments face a significant shortfall in the area of members and recruits. Please consider joining and serving your community through your local fire department. The departments are staffed by your neighbors and friends and could certainly use your assistance in protecting our homes and families.