WASILLA - Homeowners will benefit from a steadfast commitment to fire protection in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough's largest fire service area. The insurance rating for the Wasilla-Lakes Fire Service Area significantly improved recently and could save homeowners $7.1 million annually. Some homeowners of a $200,000 house could save up to $400 per year in reduced insurance premiums. Borough Mayor Tim Anderson lives in the Wasilla Lakes Fire Service Area. "It's really good for our residents. I'm looking forward to seeing the savings on insurance costs. Those are two things that can vary, insurance and taxes. It's another way to reduce the cash outflow," Anderson said. Wasilla-Lakes Fire Service Area is 150 square miles. It runs west beginning at the Trunk Road corridor and includes the City of Wasilla. The area extends south to Knik-Goose Bay Road and ends at mile six on Point MacKenzie Road. To calculate insurance premiums, virtually all U.S. insurance companies use a rating system from the Insurance Services Office, called an ISO rating. ISO analyzes data such as water supply and fire equipment, then assigns a Public Protection Classification - a number from 1 to 10. Class 1 means exemplary fire protection, and class 10 means minimal fire protection. The Wasilla-Lakes' rating recently went from a split 4/8B class to a single class 4 rating. That is a substantial class increase for a fast-growing region that is covered by volunteer responders. Central MAT-SU Fire Chief Jack Krill Jr. said it's impressive that Wasilla-Lakes is just two steps away from Anchorage's class 2 rating. Anchorage responders are full-time employees at stations, while Wasilla-Lakes volunteer responders have other jobs and respond to calls as they get them. "In Aug. 2005, an ISO field analyst spent two days with me going through all of the vehicles, equipment, and records. He was impressed with how much we had improved in such a relatively short period of time," Krill said. Since early 2004, Krill said his department had been appealing a downgrade in its rating. The recent evaluation not only overturned the downgrade, but rewarded the service area with a higher ranking. The different outcome saves property owners $19.6 million. Under the former 4/8B rating, the split class meant that all properties within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant received the class 4 rating. Properties farther than 1,000 feet of a hydrant, but within five miles of a fire station received an 8B rating. Now under the new rating, all properties within five miles of a fire station get the class 4 rating. Property owners more than a 1,000 feet away from a hydrant will see the greatest savings in insurance premiums. "We use the fire service area funds efficiently with the ISO rating as a benchmark in the level of service we provide," Krill said. "Residents and property owners should know that their dollars are spent very well." Some changes in the fire service area that brought about the class 4 award include: a new fire engine, a temporary fire station, plans for a new training facility, and plans for two new fire stations, one on Fairvew Loop in 2008 and one between Mile 12 and Mile 16 of Knik-Goose Bay Road by 2007. The new stations would fill in gaps in fire protection. "With these two stations, 98 percent of the Wasilla-Lakes FSA will be within five miles of a fire station," Krill said. ISO will advise its subscribing insurers of this classification change by the end of March. The rating becomes effective June 1, 2006. Check with your insurance company after that date to see if you enjoy any savings in insurance premiums. For more information, contact Fire Chief Jack Krill Jr. at 373-8805.