GRANITE QUARRY, N.C. (WBTV) - A very small town in Rowan County is celebrating a very big honor. In Granite Quarry, the fire department has just earned a rating of 1 from the Insurance Service Office. It’s the highest score a department can receive, and less than 1% of fire departments across the country have that designation.
Granite Quarry is one of only 16 departments in North Carolina to carry that designation. Kim Cress isn’t surprised.
“I’m a miracle,” Cress said, “people call me a miracle.”
Cress suffered a massive heart attack in March. Firefighters from the Granite Quarry Fire Department had their hands on Kim in two minutes. It looked bad for Kim for a few weeks, but he did recover, and then many of those same firefighters were there in April when Cress came home.
“It’s not just the training and the pretty equipment” Cress, himself a former firefighter and a member of the Town Board said. “It’s what they do in their lifesaving, if it’s not me it will be somebody else.”
That kind of response, and a lot of other factors have led to the department earning the ISO Class 1 rating.
“This is the smallest fire department, smallest town in the state to earn that designation,” said Chief Jason Hord.
The department was recently inspected by the State Fire Marshal. They look at things like response times, but also training, equipment, staffing, communications, and more.
The department was a Class 4 when Chief Jason Hord took over, that’s not bad, but he thought they could do better.
“We realized that the sky was the limit and we shot for the moon…shocked, yes, some, just overall proud. I’m so proud of my department,” Hord added. “I’m privileged to lead 39 other individuals to battle everyday and I’ve never been around any one group so dedicated to one cause.”
“For a small town like Granite Quarry where it’s basically unheard of,” said Town Manager Larry Smith. “With GQ going significantly from a Class 4 to a Class 1 that could greatly affect rates, especially with businesses but even with some residential. It’s an extreme level of excellence from the department that’s serving your community and a good chance for a decrease in your property insurance rates.”
It’s a point of pride for the community, Hord says, adding that the effort to achieve the rating involved several partners.
“Joyful, ecstatic, I could think of adjectives for days…proud, that’s the one that comes to mind the most,” Chief Hord added. “It’s an overall group effort. It’s the Emergency Services Division with the county, it’s the Fire Service Division with the Fire Marshal’s Office, it’s Salisbury-Rowan Utilities with our water supply, it’s our communications center with 911 in Rowan, and it takes our mutual aid partners to make this happen, and we’ve got some of the best departments in Rowan County, and while we’re the first Rowan County department to get ISO 1, I look forward to seeing others raise their rating as well.”
But for Kim Cress, it’s confirmation of what he learned as he lay on the floor in living room drawing what might have been his last breath.
“This is real life every day stuff that happens every day,” Cress said. “Not just to me, but it lets people know that this fire department is a class act and they’re tremendous at what they do and, and I’m sitting here as a living example.”