Tragedy Hits Home for Miami-Dade’s (FL) Search-Rescue Team

Madeleine Romance

The Miami Herald


Jun. 24—The Miami-Dade Urban Search and Rescue team is known around the world for its lifesaving efforts. On Thursday, back home, the team was at the site of the collapse of the Champlain Towers in Surfside.

Since its inception in the 1980s, the search and rescue team has been dispatched to disasters in the U.S. and across the world to help comb through rubble, save lives and locate the dead.

The team is made up of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue personnel and outside specialists, and is divided into groups including command, rescue, search, medical and planning. The task force also has nine FEMA-certified canine teams, each with one handler and one search dog.

Members were there for South Florida during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

Photo Gallery: Florida Condo Collapse

Photo Gallery: Florida Condo Collapse

Here are some of their more recent efforts:

World Trade Center (2001)

Seventy-two rescuers from Task Force 2, a team of firefighters from 15 departments across Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, were called to New York just hours after the Sept. 11 attack. They brought 40,000 pounds of equipment in three tractor-trailers to the scene. Sorting through the rubble, they found the bodies of several New York firefighters.

Haiti (2010)

For 12 days, the Urban Rescue Team Florida Task Force 2 dug through rubble in Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake. One of the rescuers, Fort Lauderdale firefighter Scott Bayne, told the Miami Herald at the time that he and the team once went 34 hours without sleeping.

Hurricane Harvey (2017)

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Florida Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Task Force worked alongside the City of Miami Fire Rescue Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 2 to help save those affected by the catastrophic rain and flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

FIU Bridge Collapse (2018)

When the FIU pedestrian bridge collapsed in West Miami-Dade onto eight lanes of traffic, flattening eight cars, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue rescued nine people. The following day, the search and rescue mission turned into a search and recovery operation.

Global disasters

The team has also responded to natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and other natural and man-made disasters internationally including in Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Bosnia and Kenya. The team also went to a building collapse in Barbados in 2007.

Back home

On Thursday, the search and rescue team was in Surfside.

“They have years of experience in this type of operation,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.


Miami-Dade Fire Rescue has set up a family reunification center. Anyone looking to connect with loved ones from Champlain Towers can call 305-614-1819.


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