Chief Financial Officer and state Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis has announced that three units of the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force have been deployed to Surfside to assist on the scene of the condo collapse.
The teams — 6 Southwest Florida, 4 Central Florida and 3 Hillsborough — will be aiding in search efforts of the collapse that has so far led to the death of four individuals, with more than 159 unaccounted for. US&R Task Force 6 and 4 are working side-by-side with US&R Task Force 2 City of Miami, and Task Force 3 will be will be aiding in search efforts for the next several days.
“We know we have incredible professionals on the ground who are putting their own lives at risk,” Patronis said in a statement. “It’s not enough that they’re dealing with a building collapse or bad weather — they’re also combatting a fire under the debris as they fight to save lives.”
The teams will work together in responding to the collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South in Surfside, which fell early Thursday morning.
The remaining three state US&R teams have been placed on alert and are prepared to support operations, according to Patronis’ office. Crews and canine units are on day three of search operations, with heavy excavation equipment on site working to de-layer the pile of rubble.
“We’ve learned a lot of lessons from the past, and we know we have to think about the physical and mental health of these firefighters,” Patronis said in a statement. “We’ve got technology like respirators and practices like cleaning the equipment after use, to protect firefighters from cancer-causing carcinogens.”
The state’s Fire Marshal’s Office oversees Florida’s eight US&R teams. Those teams are deployed to aid communities that have been impacted by disaster.
“We know, however, that the mental health aspect of this tragedy is something we’ll need to engage for the short and long-term. We’ve learned from previous crises how these situations affect the well-being of our first responders — and we cannot allow their spiritual or mental well-being go neglected,” Patronis said in a statement. This is something we’re planning to actively tackle as this recovery operation continues.”