Tampa Bay first responders remain at Surfside condo collapse

Task Force 3 helps with search and rescue efforts
surfside condo collapse-hillsborough rescue team (2).jpg
Posted at 8:01 PM, Jun 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-28 23:15:58-04

TAMPA, Fla. — First responders from the Tampa Bay area remain on scene at the Surfside condo collapse near Miami.

The Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 3 crews deployed over the weekend. Firefighters help with the search and rescue mission.

It is a 72-member team that includes units from Tampa, St. Pete and Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

RELATED: Hillsborough rescue task force deployed to Surfside for condo collapse

Lt. Steven Lawrence with St. Pete Fire Rescue spoke to ABC Action News remotely. He said crews are working 12-hour shifts. They take breaks to stay hydrated or to eat something.

"They're hot. They're getting a lot of work in, the hours are long. It's a 12 hour period that you work. Right now, today has been entirely wet, rainy days, but they're still working through it so then it becomes extra issues as far as safety," said Lt. Steven Lawrence.

surfside condo collapse-hillsborough rescue team (1).jpg

Lt. Lawrence handles logistics. He said the pancake collapse of the building left layer upon layer of debris. He said crews continue to look for survivors in pockets of space.

"You're delayering from the top, all the way down. As you're delayering, you're hitting little voids. It may be the bathtub that creates a void. It may be the kitchen countertop or furnishings or the bed itself," said Lt. Lawrence.

Crews continue to use dogs to look for any survivors.

surfside condo collapse-hillsborough rescue team (3).jpg

"Once we get the piles down and start delayering, we let the dogs go again and see if they're still hitting. The problem is you start to get these little voids and channels so the dogs are picking up a scent, but it may not be exactly where we're thinking. It may be 20-30 feet away because of the way the voids and odors carry," said Lt. Lawrence.

Lt. Lawrence said crews remain hopeful.

"We don't work with just our task force. We work with multiple agencies. We all received the same training, but it is multiple agencies trying to work with one goal, one focus."

The search and rescue mission is the largest non-hurricane deployment of task force resources in Florida's history.