ORLANDO, Fla. – Members of several Central Florida fire departments are offering assistance to a task force that is heading to South Florida where crews continue to work after a condo building partially collapsed Thursday.
According to a release, 42 members of the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4 — which includes people from the Orlando, Orange County Seminole County, Lake County and Reedy Creek fire departments — will be heading to Surfside where teams are still conducting search-and-rescue efforts.
District Chief Walt Lewis said some of the difficulties crews are facing include weather, concrete that could fall and not knowing the exact reason for the collapse.
“For those victims trapped in the pile, it is a lot of debris to have to cycle through, slowly work through, and while you may not see on the outside, there is rescue work going on from all different avenues to get to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, but also as safely as possible. For not just the rescuers, but the people in the pile,” he said.
He reiterated people should still have hope that for their loved ones and that the task force will “act as though there [are] people to be saved.”
“It’s our personnel that really drive the bus in the sense that they keep this mission going by staying on the game. They’re well-trained structural support specialists, structural rescue specialists, canine search specialists, so we have a lot of dedicated people that are highly trained and will be able to augment that rescue response down south,” Lewis said.
District Chief Spencer Bashinski with the Orlando Fire Department said each of their deployments leading up to this one to Surfside will allow them to be “as successful as possible.”
“I firmly believe, I think the command staff that I’ve been in touch with down there firmly believes, that there is a very good chance that we will have the opportunity to rescue people still alive,” he said.
Officials announced Friday morning that the death toll from the collapse has risen to four after three people were pulled from the rubble and now 159 people remain unaccounted for.
Crews are focusing efforts in areas they are hearing any kind of noise, but Assistant Miami-Dade Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said during a news conference that it is hard to be sure whether they are human-made noises or not.
A wing of the 12-story building in Surfside came down around 1:30 a.m. Thursday. President Joe Biden approved the state’s emergency declaration so Florida can receive federal assistance.