Evanston Fire Chief Greg Klaiber announced at Monday’s City Council meeting that the Insurance Services Office has upgraded the city’s fire protection rating.

Klaiber says the upgrade, from a class 3 to a class 2 rating on the group’s 10-point scale, may lead to property owners in town seeing a 6 to 10 percent decrease in their fire insurance rates.

Only 51 of 2,500 communities in Illinois other than Evanston have the class 2 rating and just 11 — including Skokie — have the highest, class 1 rating.

Klaiber says its been nearly two decades since the department was last evaluated for the rating. He said the department’s training has “improved tremendously” in recent years and “that really helped this time around.”

He said improvements in communications equipment, the water supply and recordkeeping were also factors in the upgrade.

Klaiber said the department responded to 8,917 calls for service last year, the second highest number on record. Nearly two-thirds of the calls were for ambulance service.

He said fires in the city did $1.3 million in damage last year, but firefighting efforts saved properties valued at $53 million.

The chief said the department will start recruiting to hire new firefighters this year and the City Council Monday approved amendments to the city’s civil service rules that would grant preferenced points to Evanston residents and reduce the minimum age requirement for applicants from 21 to 20 years.

Klaiber said both changes were part of an effort to increase the number of local residents on the department and increase its diversity.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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