Valley fire official helps rescue efforts in Florida at site of condo collapse
PHOENIX – The rubble pile of a Miami Beach-area condo building is the first deployment in 12 years where Phoenix Fire Deputy Chief Frank Salomon was clearly instructed no photos were permitted.
Salomon is working to provide updates on the search and rescue efforts of the tragic condo collapse in Florida for both local media and international media.
At least 36 lives have been claimed and the death toll increases every day with 109 people still unaccounted for.
The federal government requested his assistance on July 1 to help lead communication efforts for one of the many FEMA urban search and rescue teams.
Since he arrived in Surfside, Florida, early Friday morning, Salomon has led briefings for a command task force.
“My duties are long hours; I probably get about an hour or two of rest because we have the two operational periods and there’s preparation for each that takes the majority of the time,” Salomon told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.
His deployment was originally scheduled for 15 days, but he believes it will likely be extended.
Salomon describes it as extremely draining both physically and emotionally.
“On top of this being an international event, this is a very religious sensitive event as well and with all those dynamics coming together and the emotions that you can imagine from this tragedy makes it a very difficult environment to work in,” Salomon said.
Salomon is a member of the FEMA US&R Blue IST and is being housed on the “Explorer of the Sea” cruise ship.
He describes the search and rescue operations as extremely dangerous with first responders literally digging through rubble with shovels and attempting to cut through rebar with electrical tools.
The extreme weather conditions are only making it harder with a heat index of 100+ and 88% humidity, along with wind speeds so high they could be on tornado watch.
“It’s difficult work and labor intensive, but it’s also mentally fatiguing because they have recovered many of the victims and every time they recover a victim it’s a sad reminder of the devastation,” Salomon said.
Despite the long hours and emotional toll the rescue efforts have taken on first responders, the support of the resilient community helps keep them going strong.
“Every day there is just groups of individuals pulling little red wagons with ice, water and food and food trucks line up in a safe area and dish out food to anyone that’s working here for free,” Salomon said.
The first responders continue working to search and rescue. There has been no implications officials will change the efforts to search and recover missions.
Salomon understands that if closure is going to be felt for families and friends of the victims, the first responders digging through rubble are the only ones capable of making it happen.
“There are individuals out here like task forces and first responders that constantly run towards the danger and they do it for the families and we’re seeing it here,” Salomon added.