Four local first responders in Florida with task force

By Taylor Wooten | [email protected]

Four Johnson County firefighters are part of a team in south Florida assisting in search and rescue efforts at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse.

The residential building in Surfside, a suburb of Miami, collapsed June 24, leaving at least 18 people dead and 145 unaccounted for as of July 1. A team of 80 first responders in Indiana Task Force No. 1 departed by bus Wednesday evening.

Among the group are Justin Laraway and Rob Stecher, both of the Greenwood Fire Department, Sean Campbell of the Bargersville Community Fire Department and Dan McElyea of the Franklin Fire Department.

The goal of Indiana’s Task Force No. 1 is to relieve Miami-area workers, said Mike Pruitt, deputy chief of the Bargersville fire department and a spokesperson for the task force.

An effort such as this requires a lot of specialists, including rescue specialists, canine specialists and hazardous materials specialists, as well as planning staff. The group also needs personnel to drive trucks, forklifts and provide meals to the first responders, Pruitt said.

“It takes a village to respond to an event like this,” he said.

Campbell is a tech search specialist, while Laraway, Stecher and McElyea are rescue specialists.

The work being done is meticulous, because it has to be done by hand to ensure no survivors in the wreckage are harmed. This takes a lot of time, and the high-stress situation wears quickly on first responders, Pruitt said.

“I would expect this to go on for a month,” he said.

Indiana Task Force No. 1 — including the four local firefighters — was expected to arrive Thursday evening in the Surfside area. They will be given responsibilities at the site, and assist locals and other traveling task forces in the ongoing search and rescue efforts at Champlain Towers.