Because of improvements in the staffing and scheduling at the Missoula Rural Fire Department, home insurance rates have been lowered on homes within five miles of a fire station, and 1,000 feet from a fire hydrant.

District Chief for Missoula Rural Fire Bill Colwell said the confirmation came at the first of the year from the Insurance Services Office .

"The Insurance Services Office is an organization that studies fire suppression systems for fire departments and communities," Colwell said. "They examine dispatch and water systems in a fire department and they determine the risk of insuring property. That risk assessment then becomes the factor in determining the insurance rate for your property."

Colwell said his department has been working on improving services for almost two years.

"The Missoula Rural Fire District started the rewrite process back in 2012," Colwell said. "Part of what we've done is increased the number of people we have working for the fire district by six through a SAFER grant for firefighter safety and adequate staffing. We've also done a lot of work on water delivery and tracking of resources. We've also gotten a greater commitment from our volunteer and resident firefighters that are available to respond to emergencies."

The changes have helped to reduce the insurance rates for those in certain areas served by Missoula Rural Fire.

"The changes are for those homes within a five mile radius of a responding station, and within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant, and it changes their rating from what was a five to a four," Colwell said. "That change can reduce a home's insurance premiums from three to 13 percent. These changes are primarily for commercial property, but they also apply to residential properties."

Colwell said that homeowners served by the Missoula Rural Fire District should contact their insurance providers to determine if their rates can be lowered.

"People can call me at the Missoula Rural Fire District at 549-6172, and we'll have several people here who can address the issue," he said.

District Chief for Missoula Rural Fire Bill Colwell