ST. TAMMANY - A local fire district has improved its fire rating once again and the result is some lower insurance premiums for area homeowners and businesses.

Cheryl Gross said the letter she received right before year's end was an early Christmas gift that she didn't expect.

"I had no idea the savings that I was going to get, so I was very shocked by how fast it happened - and the savings," she said.

The $38 a year drop in her home insurance premium came as a result of her local fire service, St. Tammany Fire District 1, improving its rating to the second best it can achieve.

"It's kind of an efficiency of operations and practice within the fire department," said Chris Kaufmann of Fire Dist. 1. "In return, you're able to give back to your taxpayers by reducing the homeowner or business insurance rates."

The Property Insurance Association of Louisiana - or PIAL - rates fire districts on key factors including: number of staff, their level of training, quality of equipment and location of stations relative to emergency response times.

The less risk there is for a total loss in a fire, the better the fire rating and the less cost homeowners and businesses pay.

It's the second upgrade the Slidell-area fire district has accomplished in less than 10 years, which has taken some doing since it is considered a suburban department.

"We set a goal and said, 'let's try to do better for our citizens and a lot of work checking hydrants, pre-planning, being able to do all the trainings and evolutions that go along with this process," said Kaufmann.

So, how can a consumer tell if they are reaping the benefits of the fire department's efforts?

"Once it gets to the state and everything, when we go to rate it, it should re-populate in the system and most companies should have it in there," said Insurance Agent Bryan Fassbender. "Some companies don't have it in the system, so once we're aware of it, we will go back and change them during renewal time and throughout the year."