Mexico Beach is looking at a sharp increase in their fire insurance rating from a five to a 10, the highest rating possible with the higher numbers likely to result in increased costs for fire insurance throughout the city.

Mexico Beach is looking at a sharp increase in their fire insurance rating from a five to a 10, the highest rating possible with the higher numbers likely to result in increased costs for fire insurance throughout the city.

According to City Administrator Mell Smigielski, while the city has not received a letter confirming the increase, all indications point to just that.

“Until we get the paper we don’t know for sure, but that is the indication,” Smigielski said.

One of the major components of the increased rating, known as an ISO, is the fact that the city is lacking in certified firefighters.

In 2012, a new state requirement was introduced that a fire department was required to have four certified firefighters on each fire call.

While Mexico Beach has over four certified firefighters on their roll call sheet, it is sometimes difficult to get the volunteers at the same fire.

“We have more than four people show up to our fires but they’re not all certified,” Smigielski added.

While Mexico Beach is often joined by nearby Gulf County units, those firefighters are not counted towards the required numbers and with only three active fires last year, Smigielski added, funding for professional firefighters and increased training is hard to find.

“That (the requirement) is going to make it more difficult for smaller fire departments,” Smigielski said.

Another issue that the city ran into during its rating inspection was the lack of proper equipment to inspect the city’s fire hydrants.

According to the city administrator, 50 percent of the final rating is based on those tests.

“That really knocked us down,” Smigielski said of the lack of proper testing equipment.

In his first week on the job, new Emergency Services Director Daniel Simmons is working to try to gain access to the necessary equipment.

At last week’s regular meeting of the Mexico Beach City Council, Smigielski introduced Simmons and told the gathered public and the city councilmembers that Simmons was hard at it even before his actual start date.

Another benefit from the addition of Simmons is the ability to train in-house, as Simmons is qualified to instruct the Firefighting I course.

Smigielski is hopeful that with retesting of the city’s hydrants and increased numbers of certified firefighters, the proposed ISO rating will decrease.

Once the city receives notification of the rating increase they will have a few months to plan and implement changes that could reduce the fire rating number.

It will take a full year for the ISO rating to go into effect.

While not a major factor in the rating, the condition of the city’s fire station does play a role.

“It’s( the fire station) not in the best of shape,” Smigielski said.

The station has mold problems and is quick to flood.

“Best case scenario is we would like to get a brand new firehouse that doesn’t have mold in it and things of that sort,” Smigielski said. “The chance of us getting that kind of funding is pretty slim right now.”

Until a new fire station is feasible, Smigielski said the city will work to mitigate problems at the current station.

While the rating will impact insurance costs, Smigielski said that the only portion of a property owner’s insurance that would go up would be the fire portion.

According to Smigielski, while the city is looking at all possible ways to mitigate the increase in the ISO, that mitigation must be organized.

“We have to have a plan,” Smigielski said.