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Hillsborough rescue task force deployed to Surfside for condo collapse

Florida's Task Force 3
Posted at 1:06 PM, Jun 26, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — State officials have deployed teams from all over Florida to assist in search and rescue efforts in Surfside at the site of the building collapse. One of those teams is from right here in the Tampa Bay area.

Florida’s Task Force 3 is a team of 72 people, consisting of crews from Hillsborough County Fire Rescue as well as Tampa Fire Rescue and St. Pete Fire Rescue. They’ll be in Surfside for the next 7 days, and they say at this point, it is very much still a rescue mission.

RELATED: Surfside building collapse updates: 5 dead, 156 unaccounted for

“We are still in rescue mode, which means we are still hoping to find live victims,” said Capt. Adam Brown with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

The task force has special operations training focused on collapsed structure rescue. In addition to first responders, the task force includes physicians, engineers, and K9 teams.

“We train for it year round. It is bittersweet to get these missions. It’s nice to put our training into action, but again, it is a horrible circumstance that we have to use our training this way,” said Capt. Brown.

Their convoy includes 24 vehicles of equipment for rescue and housing personnel that will allow the Task Force to be fully self-supported.

Florida’s Task Force 3 deployed to Surfside early Saturday, with orders to arrive by noon, the 72 person crew showed up and immediately got to work.

For the next 7 days, they’ll be digging through rubble hoping to rescue any survivors stuck below.

“At some points it becomes a bucket brigade where you’re removing just handfuls of debris by hand, removing it off the pile with buckets. Other times we can use tools to remove large pieces of concrete or steel or columns, and have them removed by crane,“ said Brown.

It’s a deployment unlike any other for Captain Adam Brown.

“I’ve got quite a few deployments under my belt, but nothing, not a building collapse of this size, this magnitude, with the potential for so many lives lost. That’s new for me as well as probably the majority of my team,” said Brown.

But they’re looking forward to helping their first responder family, and the families of those still waiting for answers.

“We’re here to do whatever we can, we’ll keep working until the job is done, and we hope we can do a good job,” said Brown.

The team is currently working in 12-hour shifts, with half of them digging through rubble on scene, while the other half gets their tent village set up where they’ll all be staying for the next week.

We’ll be in close contact with the task force and we’ll bring you updates as we get them.