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Kimball residential mountaintop community Jasper Highlands has improved its public protection classification rating to the best in Marion County, Class 4. 

Leaders said that the new rating is a “drastic improvement” from the previous rating of Class 10, which the newly formed volunteer fire department inherited because of nearby departments electing to no longer cover the mountain, according to a news release. 

The volunteer Jasper Highlands Fire Department recently went through an evaluation with the Insurance Services Office in order to review and update the fire district’s applicable classification rating.

This improvement could translate into lower insurance rates of up to 70 percent for residents of Jasper Highlands.

Officials said they are extremely proud that they have also implemented the first team of EMS responders in the county through their dedicated team of volunteers.

“This team has put in over 1,000 hours of training led by James Wessel and Lowell Hardin, who together have more than 50 years of experience in fire service,” owner and developer John Thornton said in a prepared statement. “We strive to offer our community the best of the best in every respect, and we are proud to have an extremely strong team of volunteers led by Chief John Roth to protect our residents, and also provide a substantial amount of savings for homeowners through insurance reductions because of our excellent ISO rating.”

Last year, the Foster Falls Volunteer Fire Department voted not to cover Jasper Highlands, but Thornton contracted with Wessel, founder and former president of Brindlee Mountain Fire Apparatus in Huntsville, Alabama.

He began scouting for dedicated team members and purchasing top-of-the-line trucks and equipment for the development, according to a news release. 

According to reports from December 2015, only 80 fire departments out of 921 in the state of Tennessee have a better rating on a 10–1 scale than Jasper Highlands. The majority of fire departments scored between Class 5 and Class 9 in 2015, according to a news release.

“From startup to a Class 4 is unheard of and is a direct testament to Thornton, the development and the volunteers who selflessly put in hours upon hours of their own time to train and serve,” Wessel, president of Jasper Highlands Fire Department, said in a prepared statement. “The benefit of Jasper Highlands’ new rating goes directly back to the community. Achieving a Class 4 rating confirms that together we have made this a great fire department.”

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