Morning Sun Road fire station closure already causing insurance hikes in Nevada County | TheUnion.com

Morning Sun Road fire station closure already causing insurance hikes in Nevada County

Ken Getz was paying about $1,300 for homeowner’s insurance before his policy was dropped, forcing him to find another provider.

What followed was months on the phone with insurance companies before he finally found one willing to insure him. The problem — his new bill was about $3,600, almost three times what he was paying.

“I have to believe it’s because of the fire station closing,” Getz said of the Morning Sun Lane station.

Agents at Harris Insurance Services in Grass Valley said the June closure of the South County station is at the heart of the increase. Many homes in that area now have no staffed fire station within five miles, which eventually will affect insurance rates across that area.

“The insurance thing is going to be the big thing,” said Jerry Good, battalion chief of the Higgins Fire Protection District. “Insurance companies call and ask if a station is staffed. We have to say ‘No.’ We’ve heard horror stories in the past.”

The closure of the Morning Sun Lane station stemmed from the August 2015 failure of a tax increase. If passed, it would have a repealed a 35-year-old $25 tax on residential parcels and replaced it with a $141-per-parcel tax on residences.

The tax’s failure led the Higgins board to close the station and lay off six employees. Higgins officials have said it could now take more than 10 minutes for an engine to reach Dog Bar Road area homes, which were served by the Morning Sun station.

The location of fire hydrants and staffed fire stations play large roles in the cost of insurance, according to Richard Harris, owner of Harris Insurance Services. Companies typically want hydrants within 1,000 feet and a staffed fire station within five miles.

Getz now finds himself about eight miles from two different stations.

“That’s far,” Getz said. “That’s 15-minute response times.”

Harris said home insurance in the Dog Bar Road area won’t rise immediately for existing owners.

The fire station’s closure didn’t automatically trigger an increase for Getz, who said his former insurance provider cited the chance of wildfires as the reason for dropping him. It was losing his insurer and being forced to find another that triggered the check for a station within five miles.

Harris said that insurance companies eventually will start checking on the fire station’s status over the next several months. Homeowners could then see rate increases.

“I’m sure just one wildfire in the area and they’ll drop us, too,” Getz said. “I guess we’ll be OK for a year. Without that fire station, we’re screwed,”

According to Good, there are about 400 homes in the Dog Bar Road area. Some 3,000 homes are in the Combie Road/Highway 49 area, which is served by the main Higgins station.

Getz, along with Doug Behl, writes a Tech Tips column published by The Union in its Money Monday section.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.


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