AUBURN — The Auburn Fire Department celebrated a major achievement Wednesday morning as it became one of seven departments in New York state to earn the highest ranking insurance classification. 

Several city and state officials attended the department's announcement at the firehouse on Market Street, where members of the Insurance Services Office explained what the new classification means for the community. 

According to ISO Community Hazard Mitigation Manager Hugh "Skip" Gibson, Auburn has been rated a "Class 1 city," an upgrade from its previous Class 2 qualification. In short, he said, that means the department will receive the best insurance protection while providing some of the best fire protection to the community. 

Gibson said there are only six other cities statewide that are ranked Class 1; there are only 270 Class 1 cities in the nation. 

"You are in an elite group across the country, so it is a great accomplishment for everyone," he said. "You have a wonderful city protected by some of the best fire service." 

Nationwide, Gibson said the majority of cities fall under classes 4, 5, 6 and 9. There are a total of 10 classes — or Public Protection Classification (PPC) — with ISO. 

Every four years, each city is graded in four areas: emergency communication, fire department, water supply and community risk reduction. Cities can earn a total of 105.5 points; anything above a 90 is considered Class 1. 

This year, Auburn scored a 90.23. 

"That means we have a very good fire department ... and we provide the best fire protection possible to our community," Auburn Fire Chief Joseph Morabito said. "It also means (businesses') insurance rates will get better after Jan. 1. ... And the more businesses we can attract to the city the better." 

Auburn Mayor Michael Quill recalled the department's efforts to improve its ISO score in the 1990s; Quill joined the department in 1973 and became its fire chief in 1995.

"At that point, we were a Class 3 city at risk of dropping to Class 4," he said, noting that a large part of the lower classification was due to a lack of documentation. "Everyone here has done a great job. ... We're very proud of you. But don't let your guard down. We have to keep going." 

Staff writer Megan Blarr can be reached at (315) 282-2282 or megan.blarr@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @CitizenBlarr. 

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Crime and Courts Reporter