Montgomery County Emergency Services District No. 10, which contracts with the Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department to provide services, announced an upgrade July 9 to its Insurance Services Office, or ISO, rating.

The district has upgraded its rating from a 3/10 to a 2/10, according to a July 9 news release, meaning the district has achieved the second highest classification—a 2—given by the ISO once notification is received from the state fire marshal's office.

“The improved ISO rating indicates that ESD No. 10 has quality personnel, operations and the capability to effectively serve our 165-square-mile service area,” Chief Jeff Hevey said in the release. “I am proud of the rating and look forward to making continued improvements to advance ESD No. 10 even further.”

The district’s rating remains a 10 in regions of its service area where water is difficult to supply in a timely manner, Hevey said during a July 8 meeting of the ESD commissioners.

A 2/10 rating places the ESD in the top 4.5% of the nation and top 12% of Texas, according to the release, based on ISO data from 2018.

The rating given by the ISO is key for personal and commercial insurance, according to the release. Communities serviced by a district with a higher rating—meaning the closer the rating is to 1—may receive lower insurance rates, according to the release.

“ISO ratings are essential for fire departments, emergency services districts and municipalities,” Assistant Fire Chief Rusty Griffith said in the release.

Griffith led the ISO reclassification efforts for the district.

“It was a thorough process to earn this rating and one that will have positive effects throughout our community,” he said.

In formulating an ISO rating, the ISO reviews emergency communications, the fire department and water supply, according to the release.

During the July 8 meeting, Hevey also said the district has managed to staff all of its nine stations consistently 24/7 since May, excluding only one station that was without staff for a 12-hour period. Prior to Hevey’s appointment as chief in March, the district allegedly had several unmanned stations, ESD officials said.

According to a June 25 release from the ESD highlighting district operations since Hevey’s arrival, the fire department has performed a facilities assessment, established a professional employment process—including mandatory background checks for all employees and creating job descriptions for all positions—and implemented regular maintenance and repairs of equipment, such as replacing 118 outdated tires by early July, fire department personnel noted during the July 8 meeting.

The ESD board voted March 18 to notify the MVFD of terminating its contract, which began the ongoing process of transitioning to the ESD being the direct employer and provider of services, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.

Prior to the vote to notify the MVFD of terminating its contract, the MVFD and ESD saw changes in leadership in March following a lawsuit filed by an assistant fire chief that raised questions about misconduct within the department. Gary Vincent, the former fire chief who was placed on administrative leave in February and retired in March, pleaded guilty to abuse of official capacity May 26 before the 221st District Court as an investigation found he misused government funds, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.

The ESD board has upped its meeting frequency to twice monthly and meets again July 22.