In 2015, firefighter Tim MacNeil was looking for a way to donate a set of used self-contained breathing apparatuses to a local fire department in need.
His department at the time, Lantz Fire & Emergency Services, had just purchased a new set of SCBAs, but not wanting to simply get rid of the old, yet still useful SCBAs, MacNeil decided to turn to Facebook to find the gear a new home.
“Back in the good old days, you’d have to phone everyone, post a poster somewhere or e-mail everyone in the world to let them know you have something available,” he said.
“With social media the way it is today, though, it is so easy to just put the information out there, and in no time everyone has seen it.”
Determined to give the equipment to a department that could use them, MacNeil created the Nova Scotia Fire Equipment Swap and Trade or Sell Facebook group, which allowed anyone in emergency services to post equipment they were looking to pass on to those in need.
“Since the page has been up, there has been quite a few times where departments have posted stuff just to give it away,” he said.
“That is amazing to me, because firefighting equipment is very expensive today. Those SCBAs, per pack, are anywhere between $6,000-10,000. Just to suit one firefighter, you are looking at thousands of dollars. My current department, Shubenacadie Fire Services, has even given a set of SCBAs away on the group too.”
Since its creation, the page has grown to just under 1,700 members, with departments across the province posting more every day such as personal protection gear, electronic firefighting equipment, and other high-priced items some departments may not be able to afford new.
“Just recently on the page, a department gave away two thermal imaging cameras, which are usually worth anywhere from $15,000-25,000,” said MacNeil.
“Those are often lifesaving equipment that some departments sadly just don’t have the funds to afford that stuff. For a department to just post those and give them away, that’s amazing.”
The group doesn’t stop at just offering used equipment to other stations, though, as fire trucks and other used emergency vehicles have made their way onto the group as well, offering low-priced deals for smaller departments that may need a truck, but can’t afford the $300,000-1.5 million price tag of a new rig.
“As soon as you put a safety factor onto something, the price for it just goes through the roof,” said MacNeil.
“It’s life-saving equipment, though, and to save lives we need to make sure we are buying the highest-quality stuff we can get. When we’re in a dangerous situation where we are relying on this equipment, we can’t afford to be cheap.”
While the group was set up initially to get rid of surplus gear and help out a few smaller departments, MacNeil never thought it would gain the traction it did, and with some recent attention from various media outlets, the group’s numbers are steadily rising.
“I guess I kind of knew the group would help some people out, but the response has been kind of surprising,” said MacNeil.
“I’m pretty happy to hear some departments are benefiting from the use of the group. We’re all brothers and sisters in the firefighting world, so if we can help out our brothers and sisters in some way, that is what we are going to do.”