TAMPA, Fla. — One year ago today, Tampa Fire Rescue Captain Robbie Northrop woke up to the news about the Surfside condo collapse.
Within 24-hours, he and the Florida 3 Task Force team were on the ground, desperately searching for survivors.
“We do a lot of training, initial training, and recurrent training, on structural collapse, but Surfside was a very different animal,” said Captain Northrop. “It was a very, very large collapse in a very small geographic footprint. Almost every tool that was involved in structural collapse came off the truck.”
Captain Northrop and Florida 3 Task Force, along with Florida’s 7 other task forces, worked tirelessly for weeks in Surfside, initially in 12-hour shifts.
Northrop says hope faded quickly that any air pockets would be discovered where survivors may be trapped.
The work, he says, was physically and emotionally difficult.
“There was a family member of a fire fighter that was involved that we were adamant that we wanted to find,” Northrop said. “After a couple days go by your hope of finding somebody alive definitely diminishes, but there’s still a mission to find everybody and make sure they have closure.”
Northrop says Florida Task Force Teams train regularly for building collapses, however that training usually only includes one and two story structures, typically as a result of hurricane damage.
The Surfside collapse was the third worst building collapse in US history, only behind the Oklahoma City Bombing and the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York in 2011.