A recent inspection of the Watson Chapel Volunteer Fire Department by the Insurance Service Office has resulted in a lower rating and potential savings for home and business owners.

Watson Chapel Fire Chief Steven Tidwell said the new rating, a five, took effect March 1. After the department was last rated about five years ago, it received a rating of six.

“People will see a considerable difference in their insurance rates,” Tidwell said.

The ISO rating scale runs from 10 to one, with one being the best.

Tidwell attributed the new rating to updated equipment and an emphasis on updating training and equipment records.

“Our side counts for 50 percent of the points, and the other 50 percent is based on the water company,” Tidwell said. “We have a great relationship with Watson Chapel Water Association, and we've worked closely with them for several years.”

He said the department now has four stations, the main station on Farm Lane, a station on US 79 south, a station on Sulphur Springs Road and the final station on Community Road, which is located off Lee Springs Road.

Residents in the Watson Chapel area are assessed a $5 monthly fee for fire protection, which is collected on their water bill. The department also receives a portion of the county-wide Public Safety sales tax, and Tidwell said additional money comes from insurance turn-back money that is split between all the fire departments in the county.

He said firefighters are mostly called on to fight grass and woods fires and receive assistance from the Arkansas Forestry Commission in some cases.

“I'm really pleased with the rating,” Tidwell said. “Our people worked hard. My goal in three to five years is to get another rating and try to get our rating lowered to a four or even a three.”

The White Hall Volunteer Fire Department recently had their rating lowered to a three. The Pine Bluff Fire Department's rating is a two.