State CFO visits Jacksonville to thank firefighters who helped in Surfside

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s state fire marshal and chief financial officer, visited Jacksonville on Thursday to thank the Urban Search and Rescue team that’s made up of firefighters from a number of agencies in the area.

First responders on the team were part of the group that helped out after the condominium collapse in Surfside.

They worked around the clock removing rubble, looking for survivors and for those who didn’t make it. Investigators determined 98 people died in the overnight collapse at Champlain Towers.

Patronis and local leaders thanked each rescuer with a Surfside challenge coin and a pin.

“Picking up debris hand-by-hand, working on an unstable site with looming debris that’s been compromised leaning over them,” Patronis said. “At the same time, they’re trying to save lives. They’re picking up children’s toys. Photo albums. Other personal effects.”

“It shows that our hard work is being recognized,” said engineer James Hardwick, with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department. “But we don’t do it for the recognition. We do it because we want to be here and these guys are the best. I wouldn’t do it with anyone else.”

Patronis is fighting for $10 million in the upcoming state budget for equipment, recruitment and training for the state’s search and rescue teams.

He says the tragedy in Surfside was so traumatic that many members retired after the assignment.

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.

At WJXT for a quarter of a century, Mary Baer anchors the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. news weekdays.