‘We lean on each other’: Lexington fire captain helping in Fla. condo collapse recovery efforts

Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 9:51 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - For nearly two weeks, crews have been digging through the rubble of collapsed Champlain Towers in Surfside, Florida looking for victims. This includes six firefighters from Kentucky who are part of Ohio Task Force 1. One of those six is from Lexington.

“Our team is there for 24 hours the whole time,” Lexington Fire Captain Ryan Hogsten said.

Day in and day out, countless rescue teams are coming in from all over to keep the search going, even as efforts made the tragic transition to recovery.

“We on the federal side are just here to assist them and try to relieve some of that, and also have some final closure for the people and the families that are in this mess,” Hogsten said.

Hogsten is part of Ohio Task Force 1, a federal regional group of rescue workers who respond to disasters. He’s in Surfside with other Kentucky firefighters from Covington and Ashland.

“It is different when we come to a site of this magnitude. It’s not just a normal house or anything like that. It’s a major condo and it’s a lot of material to get through,” Hogsten said.

Witnessing such devastation and sadness can take a toll on the men and women as they search for victims, relying on each other and support from the communities as they dig through debris.

“Being in the fire service, we are family. Almost everybody on this team is part of the fire service. So when you get into it, not only do you have your own family, but you have your fire department family. And just like any other family dealing with tragedy. We lean on each other, we talk to each other,” Hogsten said.

The task force is prepared to be in Surfside for at least two weeks. There are more than 80 crew members with the team rotating in 12-hour shifts.

Folks are coming together from all over with a single mission—working nonstop through such devastation to give families and a community peace.

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