Fire Department & Home Fire Insurance Ratings

The North Carolina Department of Insurance regulates the insurance industry for the State of North Carolina. The Insurance Commissioner also serves as the State Fire Marshal. The Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is responsible for training fire and rescue personnel, administering the state building code and rating the fire suppression capabilities of fire departments across the state.

Premium Impacts

Insurance premiums for both residential and commercial structures can be impacted by multiple variables, including:

  • Construction material
  • Installation of sprinkler systems
  • Number of stories/floors
  • Square footage
  • Distance from a fire station, etc.

Insurance costs are also impacted by the ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating of the primary fire department covering a home or business.  2022 ISO Ratings (PDF)


Rating classifications range from class 10 (the worst rating) to a rating of class 1 (the best). A structure beyond 6 road miles from the closest fire station of their district gets a 10 rating and is considered unprotected.

Over 1,000 of the 1,500 plus fire districts in North Carolina are rural. According to OSFM, in 2009 a little over 400 districts had a class 9 rating, around 200 had a class 7, over 450 had a class 6 and just over 300 had a class 5. All other rating classes were less than 100.


Orange County is covered by 12 fire departments. Efland, Eno, New Hope, Orange Grove, Cedar Grove, Caldwell, and White Cross fire departments cover rural districts. Orange Rural (Hillsborough), Chapel Hill and Carrboro fire departments cover municipal and rural areas. Mebane and North Chatham fire departments are located outside of Orange County, but cover areas within Orange County.

All of these departments are rated by OSFM for fire suppression capabilities. Fire department ratings are based on three general areas; The Fire Department, Communications, and the Water Supply.

  1. Fire Department
  2. Water Supply
  3. Communications
  4. Insurance Companies
  5. Summary

The largest item for rating is categorized as the “fire department,” accounting for 50% of the score.

Elements include:

  • Distribution/location of stations (4%)
  • Engines (10%)
  • Ladder and/or service truck (5%)
  • Personnel (15%)
  • Pumping capacity (5%)
  • Training (9%)
  • And additional items.

Personnel Impact

Personnel includes volunteer and/or paid staff. OSFM looks for a minimum of 20 members over the age of 18 for a single station and 28 members for a two-station department. Some departments have a junior program for high school age volunteers, but juniors do not count for ratings.

Engine Impact

Of the elements listed, the engine portion is rated on equipment carried on the engine based on a requirement list provided by OSFM, the list contains over 40 items. The list includes breathing equipment (air packs), radios, handheld lights, cutting tools and foam, as well as hose, nozzles and ladders, just to name some of the items.