Local crews heading to Florida to help with rescue efforts following deadly condo collapse

Local crews are heading to Surfside, Florida to aid search and rescue efforts as hundreds remain unaccounted for following a deadly condo collapse. 

The bodies of six additional people were found in the rubble of the collapsed condo tower Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 18, officials said.

"I'm just hoping that we can help find some people and bring them home to their families," said Debbie MacDonald. 

She and her partner K9 Zack are headed to Florida as part of additional search and rescue in the collapsed condo building. They will help search piles of rubble for victims. 

"I can't imagine how they feel," said MacDonald. She’s among 82 people and several K9s headed south Wednesday to assist crews with the Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue Department. They’re part of Pennsylvania Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue. Commissioner Adam Thiel says FEMA notified them that the task force was needed.  

"The heat, humidity and you've heard about the fire underneath that collapsed building. It's an incredibly dangerous activity," he said. 

Commissioner Thiel says the team of structural engineers, search specialists, medics, firefighters, physicians and K9 is one of the most highly skilled in the nation. 

"We are hopeful with our colleagues that with the folks in that area that we may still have a possibility of finding people in that tragic collapse. Either way, we don’t leave people in there," he said.  

First Deputy Commissioner Craig Murphy has been a member of the task force for many years and has deployed all over including the World Trade Center on 911. 

"In order for us to be able to put rescuers in and those rescuers not become victims themselves we have to make sure the building is sound. We have to make sure the building is stable enough for us to do our business and then once we get in there we can get an idea on how to get to them. But it's a tedious job," he said. 

Commissioner Thiel says this is expected to be a 14-day activation for nearly half of the Philadelphia Fire Department staff. FEMA will make sure Philadelphia Fire can maintain staffing at home during that time. 

The New Jersey Task Force 1 (NJ-TF1) has also been activated and will be deployed Thursday.



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