Tampa Bay rescue team shares first-hand account of ongoing rescue effort in Surfside

Local News

SURFSIDE, Fla. (WFLA) – Task Force 3 is made up of Urban Search and Rescue specialists from Hillsborough County, Tampa, and St. Petersburg. They are now fully involved in recovery efforts at the scene of the collapsed condo in Surfside.

Their work is dangerous and physically challenging.

“When they got up to the pile and started working and helping assist in the units that were already on scene, some of the challenges were equipment,” said Lieutenant Steve Lawrence with St. Petersburg Fire Rescue.

Lawrence says some of their equipment needs might be a little unexpected.

“We’re finding we’re going through razor knives, you wouldn’t think so but razor knives because you’re hitting a lot of the carpeting and Berber carpeting because when the collapse occurred, we’re still having to dig through and delayer the collapse zones,” he said.

Like other rescue teams from all over Florida now helping out in Surfside, Task Force 3 is working on shifts on top of the pile of debris at the condo.

“In the shifts we’re working, they’re trying to rotate the crews through to keep them fresh. They keep them on the pile approximately an hour and then they pull them off and then another crew goes up, but they’re working 12-hour shifts,” he said.

As they work, they are finding voids within the pile. With each void they discover, there is some optimism.

“Any time we hit a void and we have to get into it and we put a camera into that space and then we are optimistic that we are going to find somebody and that’s our goal. We want to try to save as many as we can and respect those who have perished and bring them out,” he said.

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