Some Union Township neighbors losing homeowners insurance due to fire department assessment

UNION TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Some residents in Washington County are losing their homeowners insurance. Officials say it’s all because of a lack of data from the fire department.

As of Thursday, the Finleyville Volunteer Fire Department is now the primary fire department in Union Township, Washington County, instead of the Elrama Volunteer Fire Department.

“This is a desperate attempt to stop the emergency situation that is happening to this township,” said Board Chair Michalle Dupree.

She calls the new appointment of Finleyville Fire as the primary l department a “temporary bandaid.”

It comes because homeowners are losing their homeowner’s insurance or seeing their policy prices increase drastically this year after a new ISO assessment of the Elrama Volunteer Fire Department.

“ISO, which is an insurance reporting agency, rates fire departments in communities on their fire suppression rating and they report those to the insurance company. They use that to base your homeowners insurance rate,” Dupree explained.

Emails dating back to 2020 show an ISO rep trying to contact Elrama Fire about collecting data for the new assessment.

ISO said it never heard back.

Chief Lenny Bailey says he was never contacted.

“I’ve never seen a letter addressed to the Elrama Fire Department,” Bailey said.

ISO scores range from one to 10, with one being the best.

Elrama Fire’s latest score was a 10 due to a lack of data being provided to ISO.

Bailey says his department was previously rated a six.

“I just want everybody to know this ain’t all our fault, the way it’s getting pointed toward us,” Bailey said.

According to Dupree, the score was also impacted by a lack of fire hydrant testing data, stemming from unpaid hydrant bills by the township, as well as unpaid worker’s comp insurance by the township.

Dupree said those issues have been fixed and she hopes Elrama’s ISO rating will soon be fixed, too.

“This board had no choice but to do what was best for the township at this time, as a temporary solution,” Dupree said.

Chief Bailey is set to meet with an ISO representative on March 6 to begin the process of improving the department’s rating.

It could take up to six months, but township and fire department leaders hope to expedite that process.

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