Shortage of Austin Fire stations may be leading to higher homeowner's insurance rates

Bob Nicks, President of the Austin Firefighters Association says the Fire Department recently went through a re-evaluation of insurance rates -- the travel distance between a fire station and a home was taken into account.

"The good news is we went up to a type 1, class 1 ISO across the city.  But in order to get there, some residents were actually downgraded to an ISO 10 which is the lowest rating you could have which is what you would get if you were in a rural area with no fire protection whatsoever," Nicks said. 

Nicks says Berdoll farms in Del Valle got hit hard by the re-rating.  The nearest fire stations are dangerously far away which he says increased insurance $1,000 a year for about 200 homes.

Tony Maldonado has lived in Berdoll Farms since 2003.  He says there was a neighborhood watch meeting last week about the rising insurance.

"I actually paid my mortgage yesterday and I did see an increase and I'm having the mortgage company analyze the escrow account to see what actually is going on and why that increase occurred," Maldonado said. "Calculate that over a year period, you're getting close to $1,000 as well."

"When parts of my district are facing higher insurance bills that's just a very, very big concern and they shouldn't have to wait until 2022 to get a fire station that was supposed to be built years ago," said District 2 City Council Member Delia Garza.

Garza says she sponsored a resolution 2 years ago asking for a plan to build 5 new fire stations in parts of the city that desperately need them.  Garza says the report just came back recently.

"It could take up to 10 years to actually get us to where we should be but in actuality, we were 5 fire stations behind 2 years ago which means by the end of this timeline we're going to be 5 more fire stations behind," Garza said.

Garza says she reached out to the city manager and asked for a different timeline.  She also says some work needs to be done on reducing the cost of the stations.

"It seems really high.  The cost of the fire stations are like $11 million plus and other surrounding cities have been able to build fire stations for significantly lower costs," Garza said.

"Pflugerville is building two stations soon for $3 million a piece and they're bigger than the stations we're building.  We can do better and we've got to do better," Nicks said.  

Nicks points out that Berdoll Farms was annexed.

"They were promised services and they weren't delivered for over 10 years.  We should reimburse those citizens immediately.  Any money, any dealt in between what they were paying before and what they're paying now until we get a fire station in that area, it's just the right thing to do," Nicks said.

He says that won't solve the safety issue though -- a fire station needs to be built near Berdoll Farms as soon as possible.

"Hopefully soon we can start seeing some results and having a little bit more service and not feel like Del Valle is almost a stepchild to the City of Austin with respect to the services we're receiving," Maldonado said.  

We did speak with Mark Hanna with the Insurance Council of Texas.                

He thinks that thousand dollar figure is high and a little hard to believe.                  

He says there are a lot of different factors when it comes to insurance rates, including credit score and past claims history.                  

He suggests calling an independent agent to get a better rate.