Fire departments working together to stop burning through gear money

A new Facebook group setup firefighters in Nova Scotia allows them to give away, buy, sell or trade expensive firefighting gear to each other, often at a discounted price.

Facebook group allows Nova Scotia firefighters to give away, buy, sell or trade gear, often at deep discounts

The cost of firefighting equipment is so expensive that it can be hard for small fire departments to afford new gear, says Greenfield, N.S., fire Chief Moyal Conrad. (David Burke/CBC)

The most effective way to put out a fire is to drown it in money.

It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get firefighters the necessary equipment to put out a fire, which is something Moyal Conrad knows all too well.

He's the fire chief in Greenfield, N.S. The department gets $50,000 a year from the regional municipality, but it must raise an additional $20,000 to $25,000 a year just to cover its costs. Conrad said they do that by holding a slew of fundraisers.

"It just gets aggravating after a while, going to breakfasts and doing this and having to do that, just to make ends meet to buy safety gear or buy water to put in your fridge, so your firemen have something to drink," he said.

How much does equipment cost?

New fire trucks cost at least $250,000, according to Conrad, while the firefighting gear is also expensive:

  • Protective jacket and boots — $1,800.
  • Boots — $500.
  • Helmets — $500.
  • Gloves — $200.
  • Flash shield — $100.
  • Self-contained breathing apparatus — $10,000.

When fighting the fires, Conrad's department generally uses about 915 metres of 10-centimetre diameter hose, which costs about $3,000.

Conrad said it can be overwhelming when his department needs new gear because equipment is so expensive.

But there is help for smaller departments like his.

The equipment needed to fight a fire costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. (mat277/Shutterstock )

Firefighters across Nova Scotia have come up with a way to keep gear costs down. They formed a Facebook group called Nova Scotia Fire Equipment Swap and Trade or Sell. On it, firefighters can give away, exchange or sell surplus gear, often at a steep discount. 

Brandon Conrad is a lieutenant with the Greenfield fire department, and Moyal's son. He said the department used the group recently to buy hose at a discounted price.

"It's a very great little site to have. There's other departments out there that don't have it as well as us, their budget for the year is not the greatest and having these little things go out there and at a decent price for people is great," he said.

The protective pants and jacket that firefighters wear can cost up to $1,800. (David Burke/CBC)

The Facebook group has saved fire departments thousands of dollars.

It was set up about a year ago and currently has 1,569 members. Tim MacNeil, a firefighter with Shubenacadie Fire and Emergency Services, started the group.

He put it together when he was with the Lantz fire department. They wanted to donate some extra breathing apparatuses they had to another department.

However, outside of calling each department, MacNeil couldn't find a way to let firefighters know the gear was available, so he created the Facebook group to connect firefighters and help them find discounted or free gear.

Brandon Conrad inspects a fire hose at the Greenfield Fire Department. (David Burke/CBC)

He said one department even recently gave away a couple of extra thermal-imaging cameras it had. The cameras allow firefighters to see a person's body heat through smoke and determine if someone is trapped.

The cameras are expensive and go for $15,000 to $20,000 each, according to MacNeil.

"Those are life-saving pieces of equipment and you know it benefits their customers, their taxpayers," said MacNeil.

"We can basically see some obstacles and go right to the person that needs the help and get them out very quickly."

Tim MacNeil, a firefighter in Shubenacadie, N.S., set up the Nova Scotia Fire Equipment Swap Trade or Sale Facebook group. (Submitted by Tim MacNeil)

MacNeil said he's happy the group continues to add new members because it means more departments will be able to get help.

"We're all firefighters and we're all brothers and sisters, so if we can help out our brother or sister, that's what we're going to do," said MacNeil.

About the Author

David Burke

Reporter

David Burke is a reporter in Halifax who covers everything from politics to science. His reports have been featured on The National, World Report and As it Happens, as well as the Information Morning shows in Halifax and Cape Breton.