Crews from Pa., NJ deployed to site of deadly Florida condo collapse

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Teams from Pennsylvania and New Jersey are headed to South Florida to help with the search efforts at the site of the deadly condo collapse.

About 80 members of Pennsylvania Task Force 1 left from Philadelphia's Tacony section Wednesday night.

"(This is an) incredibly dedicated group of folks who are going down to do what they do. This is one of the most highly skilled teams in the nation as part of that program," said Adam Thiel, the fire commissioner for Philadelphia's fire department.

Half of the men and women that make up the group come from the Philadelphia Fire Department, which sponsors the task force.

"We can only imagine the pain of those who have lost loved ones or are still waiting to hear about their loved ones," Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said. "The men and women of PA-TF1 know the dangerous work they will face when they arrive on-site, but the ability to bring closure to families and friends of the victims of this collapse is also a tremendous blessing."

The deployment is scheduled to last two weeks.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy also announced Wednesday that members of the New Jersey Task Force 1 would also assist.

"It's amazing how quickly they can mobilize, they got here around 4 this morning," said Patrick Callahan, colonel New Jersey State Police.

The team includes 21 technically skilled positions and 10 ground support personnel. It is the unit's eighth deployment under FEMA since 2016.

"I know our people are ready to go, they've trained for this for probably 20 years now, so this is their core mission, this is what they're ready to do," said Kevin Morrissey, program manager New Jersey Task Force One.

The team's experience with structural collapses includes the Twin Towers in the Sept. 11 attacks, the Tropicana Hotel 's parking garage and the Hackensack parking garage.

"Local resources can only go so far and I know that Miami-Dade is one of the best in the country with those kinds of resources, but you eventually wear 'em thin," said Lt. Stephen Kinky.

Kinky is a former member of New Jersey Task Force 1 who knows what it's like to deploy to a large-scale disaster.

He says it takes hundreds of hours of training to prepare.

"We're responsible for structural collapse, trench, high angle rope rescued Swift water. So, on top of all that stuff, we know that any of those disciplines can come in when you're dealing with something like this," said Kinky.

Crews in Surfside, Florida, entered their second week of searching for survivors in the rubble left when Champlain Towers South pancaked.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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