GFR deploys personnel to aid Surfside rescue effort

As first responders work around the clock in search of survivors of a Thursday morning building collapse near Miami, Gainesville Fire Rescue (GFR) has sent personnel to aid rescue efforts.

Eight members of Florida USAR Task Force – 8 (FLTF-8) deployed to Surfside on Sunday. The 26-member FLTF-8 is comprised of Gainesville, Ocala and Marion County fire departments and activates as part of the state emergency response plan.

As of Sunday afternoon, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levina Cava confirmed nine deaths with around 150 people still missing

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District chief Don Campbell said at a news conference that the task force will delayer and help remove the rubble pile to help search for victims. The group expects the deployment to last seven 12-hour work days.

This is the first time FLTF-8 has deployed solely for a building collapse, though the group has previously dealt with buildings hit by hurricanes and tornadoes.

Even though the Gainesville members of FLTF-8 will deploy for seven days, the city of Gainesville will be adequately covered, officials said.

“We have enough task force members and urban search and rescue trained personnel that the city is still in good shape,” said Joseph Hillhouse, GFR interim deputy fire chief.

Interim deputy chief Joseph Hillhouse speaks at a Sunday news conference

Hillhouse said the deployment is mostly reimbursable financially, but the city would cover some expenses.

“We want to thank the commission and city management for their support that allows us to go and help our neighbors,” Hillhouse said.

FLTF-8 is one of eight task forces created after 9/11 to deal with disasters. They cover disciplines such as confined space rescue, trench excavation rescue, vehicle and machinery rescue and building collapse rescue.

FLTF-8 has deployed for every disaster to which the state has sent resources in recent years, including Hurricanes Katrina and Irma. The group also aided in the Bahamas recovery effort following Hurricane Dorian two years ago.

ATV deploying to help Surfside recovery

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