Tallahassee firefighter recalls responding to Surfside condo collapse

Published: Jun. 24, 2022 at 4:14 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 24, 2022 at 6:28 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - It has been one year since 98 people were killed in a condominium collapse in Surfside.

Lieutenant Angel Guzman with the Tallahassee Fire Department was one of nearly 25 firefighters dispatched from the department to aid the seven other urban search and rescue teams for the state.

Guzman said when news of the condo collapse came, they had 24 hours to prepare before leaving the following day around 3 p.m.

Two days after the collapse, the search for survivors began.

“It was very surreal,” Guzman said. “I remember standing outside, looking at all the work being done and seeing the rubble pile.”

Guzman said as they moved heavy pieces of concrete trying to clear the debris, there were people’s personal belongings scattered in the destruction.

“We were on 12-hour shifts. We would work from noon to midnight, and we would get rest and be back at it at noon,” Guzman said.

The crews worked 24 hours a day for seven days. Guzman said they did not find any living victims in the rubble.

“It’s a reminder of how quickly things can change for people,” Guzman said. “That’s one of those big events on TV that you don’t think you’re going to be going to.”

Guzman said clearing the rubble was a day he’ll never forget.

Thursday, a Miami judge approved a $1 billion settlement for the families of the 98 victims of the Surfside condo collapse.

Family members, friends, law enforcement and elected officials were in Surfside Friday for a remembrance ceremony for the victims.

Among those in attendance were First Lady Jill Biden and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

At the ceremony, DeSantis made an announcement declaring the stretch of Collins Avenue where the collapse took place as “98 Points of Light Road.”

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