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'Fire' Sale: Generating Revenue Through eBay

Is your fire department struggling to get rid of old equipment that is taking up valuable space in your fire stations? Perhaps you are struggling with having available funds to buy the needed equipment for your firefighters to get the job done? There is a unique opportunity to meet both of these needs, the highly successful auction-style website eBay.

I have found a great deal of success in selling used equipment for my department. The items I have sold have ranged from an old aerial apparatus to the smallest of flashlights.

Not only is this a great way for a fire department to generate extra revenue for its operations, but it provides a way for equipment to continue being used for its intended purpose, protecting lives and property.

Below you will find a few tips to help make the process easier for you and your agency. While I have found the particular process and vendors used to be effective, this article is not an endorsement of any product or service provided.

Creating An Account & Preparing Sales Materials

If you have never sold on eBay before, there are a couple of steps you will need to take, including setting up an account with eBay. After you have established your eBay account, you will need to decide how you will accept payment for items that are sold. Check with your agencies finance department to assure you are operating within established procedures and any applicable laws. For illustration purposes we will assume you are using an account similar to

Once you have determined which equipment or apparatus you will be selling on eBay, it will be in your best interest (i.e. you will end up having a higher sale price) if you spend some time cleaning the items prior to listing. This can be a challenge for items that have been used for several years in the fire service, as they tend to have a lot of ingrained stubborn dirt and soot on them. I have found commercial kitchen cleaners to work the best at removing these types of dirt.

After you have created your account and cleaned the equipment, you will need to take pictures of your items. If the items are small enough, place them in front of a solid-colored backdrop and take several pictures, taking note of any defects or damage so your buyers aren’t surprised when they receive their purchase.

Another area you may want to check into with your agencies administration would be whether you need to include any release of liabilities before an item is sold. For example, if you are selling a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), make sure that the purchaser understands they should have them inspected by a certified inspector prior to using the units.

I could write an entire article on how to draw attention to your item when you list it on eBay, but here are a few highlights to get you started:

  • Use high-quality images with a solid-white backdrop. Take the extra time to make your pictures look professional; it makes the item look that much better.
  • List your item in more then one category to help potential buyers find it easier.
  • Use longer listing times to let the buyer have more time to arrange funding, or to get proper approval to purchase.
  • Don’t flood the market by listing several of the same item (i.e. if your department replaced 80 flashlights, don’t list all 80 of your old lights on the same day.)
  • Be flexible and be prepared to answer lots of questions about your item.
  • Always be open and honest when describing your item, and when answering questions.

After you have completed your listing, be prepared to answer between 2-5 questions about your item per day. If you are selling a fire apparatus, you can expect this amount to increase dramatically. I always encourage the buyer to contact me with questions to make sure they know what they are buying. You may also want to plan to allow for physical inspection of an apparatus. I hope this article helps give you the ideas and pointers needed to list your items on eBay. Happy bidding!

NEIL SJOSTROM is a firefighter with the City of Roseville, MN, Fire Department. He has been with Roseville for the last six years. Prior to being employed in the fire service he worked as a network system administrator. You can reach Neil at