GONZALES — Ascension Parish’s Fire Protection District No. 1 has retained its Class 5 rating for residential and commercial properties, Parish President Tommy Martinez announced last week.

The Property Insurance Association of Louisiana stated in a March 4 letter that properties within the boundaries of Fire District No. 1 will continue with the rating following an evaluation by state fire insurance officials. Fire protection grading is done by PIAL and approved by the state commissioner of insurance.

Fire District No. 1 encompasses all areas of the east bank of Ascension Parish excluding Sorrento, Gonzales and the northwest Prairieville area. Sorrento and Gonzales have their own fire departments, while Prairieville has a separate fire protection district.

“The volunteers of Fire District No. 1 continue to deliver outstanding fire and EMS services to the residents of our district,” District Chairman James LeBlanc said. “Since 1997, we have been able to maintain a rating of 5 without parish water and with non-paid firefighters in a rural area. This is a testament of their dedication to the community.”

The district, however, could soon find itself with a paid staff of firefighters if a tax is passed next month. A 15-mill property tax and annual parcel fees of $32 for residential parcels and $100 for commercial parcels would be collected if residents of the district approve the tax plan May 4.

The district, which serves more than 72,000 people, operates with mostly volunteer firefighters on an annual budget of $1.5 million in parish funding. The tax is expected to raise approximately $4 million per year, according to figures in the proposition’s language.

The fire district is graded every five years on a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being the best and 10 representing no recognized fire protection. The ratings determine fire insurance premiums in the district and are based on fire dispatch, firefighter training and equipment and water delivery.

Eugene Witek, fire service coordinator with Fire District No. 1, said the district’s communications made up 10 percent of the assessment while the amount of equipment and firefighter training and responses, along with the number and location of fire stations made up 40 percent.

The remaining 50 percent included water delivery capability, which includes the number of fire hydrants and their locations, along with water shuttle proficiency.

“During the water shuttle portion of the assessment, we were credited with pumping 1,000 gallons of water per minute without hydrants,” Witek said. “Our firefighters really showed a coordinated team effort throughout the ratings process and especially during the water shuttle demonstrations.”