Tallahassee Fire Department crews working 12 hour shifts in Surfside tragedy

26 members of TFD and one structural engineer who contracts with the City will be there for seven days.
Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 6:29 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Tallahassee Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue team, also known as Florida Task Force 7, left Station #4 around 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon, headed for Surfside, Florida.

The group is responding to the Champlain Towers collapse; they arrived around 2:00 a.m. Monday and were activated just before noon.

26 members of TFD and one structural engineer who contracts with the City will be there for seven days.

Division Chief Mike Hadden tells WCTV this is a 24-hour operation. The TFD crew will work 12 hours on, and then have 12 hours off, starting at noon and ending midnight.

Hadden says this was a pancake collapse, with layer on top of layer.

As pieces of rubble are moved, structural engineers have to reassess; Hadden compares it to surgery.

“Anybody who thinks back to the World Trade Center, it was story on top of story,” said Hadden. “So as you peel back one layer, you have to reassess what you have. They also have to really use mapping. When the building collapsed, most people were probably in their beds. So they’re trying to focus on areas where bedrooms were likely.”

The team left in about a dozen vehicles, bringing most of their own gear, including specialized tools to break concrete and listening devices to hear victims.

Hadden says this is not only physically exhausting for first responders; it can also take a mental and emotional toll.

He says a component of the department is the International Association of Firefighters’ peer support group. They also have resources on site in Surfside.

“So the person that we’ve been working with through FAMU, she’s gone ahead. And one of our members is on their way down there today to be there for our folks. So there is a mental health component there, to talk with the responders and let them debrief if they have issues or just want to talk, there’s resources there for them,” said Hadden.

Hadden says this is about the third time in the last four years this team has been deployed.

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