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Austin insurance rates soaring due to lack of fire stations

In some Southeast Austin neighborhoods, fire response times are 11 minutes below national standards due to a lack of fire stations. Now, some insurance companies are passing that risk onto homeowners. (CBS Austin)

In some Southeast Austin neighborhoods, fire response times are 11 minutes below national standards due to a lack of fire stations. Now, some insurance companies are passing that risk onto homeowners.

According to The Austin Firefighters Association President, Bob Nicks, some homeowners in the Del Valle/Moore's Crossing area have seen their insurance rates go up as much as $1,000 a year.

"(Neighbors) should be frustrated," said Nicks. "They were annexed and promised city services and that promise never came through."

Nicks said the city knows the lack of fire stations is a critical problem. However, in his opinion, council doesn't seem to view it as a priority. "Not only are their insurance rates going up, but their risk is going up," said Nicks.

According to a memo from the Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr's, the goal of the department is to arrive to calls in eight minutes or less, 90 percent of the time. That is also the national standard.

The city does not meet that standard in five Austin areas: Travis Country, Del Valle/Moore's Crossing, Loop 360/Davenport, Goodnight Ranch and Canyon Creek.

Rae Johnson lives in the Berdoll Farms subdivision in southeast Austin and is concerned about the slow response times. "We have elderly neighbors and I have my elderly mother living with us now," said Johnson. "If it is taking longer, that could be their life."

It is a scary thought, and now, also a pricey one.

Two years ago, the city council asked the city manager to consider building new stations in the five areas where response times don't meet standards.

Last week, Chief Kerr outlined a plan to build five new station over the next 10 years.

"It's ridiculous that if you know and acknowledge that you need stations, critically needed now, and then plan for them over a 10-year period," said Nicks.

The total cost to build of all five stations is more than $86 million. The first station, in the Travis Country area, wouldn't be completed until 2020. "They've paid their taxes, they're citizens of Austin, and they're not being treated equally," said Nicks.

According to Chief Kerr's memo, insurance rates could drop up to 50% in some areas once the stations are built.

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