CAIRO — Firefighters received accolades from the Cairo City Council Monday evening for their recent advancement in the Insurance Services Office rating system.

The city fire department recently moved up from a Class 3 to a Class 2 in the ISO’s rating system

“It’s very exciting to every one of us,” said city Fire Chief Bill Schafer. “It’s an elite group of fire departments to be in.”

ISO’s Public Protection Classification (PPC) grades individual fire departments on a scale of 1-10 based on the resources they have devoted to fire protection. Lower digit ratings represent superior protection services.

PPC ratings play an important role in the underwriting process at insurance companies, according to Alex Shubert, ISO National Processing Center manager.

That means businesses looking to base themselves in Cairo could see a huge cut on their fire insurance because of the city’s new classification.

“It’s a benefit for every citizen in this community to be able to have a fire department of that quality,” said city attorney Thomas Lehman.

Lehman has been around long enough to remember when the fire department was a Class 6. He said city officials thought it was a big deal when the department became a Class 5, and he figured that when they received a rating of Class 2 that they had gone as far as they could.

“Having been with the city as we’ve moved up the ladder, it’s really good that you’ve been able to accomplish this,” Lehman told the firefighters.

Only 1,673 fire departments in the country have a Class 2 rating from the ISO, according to their website, and the highest grade is even rarer, with only 373 departments having a Class 1 rating.

The only obstacle preventing the department from reaching that top classification is a lack of manpower, which Schafer said presents the biggest challenge in the ISO’s rating system.

With the city having such a small fire department, Schafer had to take a different route to get enough points to advance. He and other figures reviewed the department’s 2013 ISO evaluation and targeted several areas where they thought they could improve.

“We had to go scrap and get every point that we could get without having to go with manpower,” Schafer said.

The department ended up receiving a nearly perfect score on training, and various upgrades like the purchase of a new fire truck also helped.

Schafer said the department wound up with just shy of 85 points in the ISO’s evaluation, and they would only need a score of 90 to become a Class 1.

City officials received news of the department’s new classification July 29.

“The citizens will reap the benefits of your hard work,” Council member Jerry Cox told the firefighters.