HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Editor's note: The video above is from July, when the task force returned home from their search and rescue mission.
Dec. 8, 2021, is officially known as Florida Urban Search & Rescue Task Force 3 Day in Hillsborough County in honor of the first responders that jumped into action after this summer's deadly Surfside condo collapse.
In the wake of the tragedy that claimed 98 lives, some 75 men and women across the Tampa Bay area were dispatched to South Florida to assist with search and rescue efforts.
The elite group, led by Andrew Capelleti of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue and Captain Brian Eichholz from Tampa Fire Rescue, consisted of members of both agencies as well as St. Pete Fire Rescue.
“The gallant first responders of Florida Urban Search & Rescue Task Force 3 worked side by side, day and night, doing everything they could for the victims of this terrible tragedy and their grieving families," Hillsborough County Commissioner Harry Cohen said during Wednesday's meeting.
“Their efforts, courage and determination are, and were at this time, unmatched."
The Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners honored the service and bravery of these men and women with a special proclamation.
It detailed how the task force members set up a small tent city in Surfside for housing and team briefings and operated in 12-hour shifts around the clock, clearing debris and looking for signs of survivors.
The first responders used "every resource available" including heavy cranes to lift concrete blocks, K-9 units, search cameras, special listening devices and removed debris by hand, the proclamation continued.
“This is an overwhelming privilege and honor," Capelleti said.
"The proclamation said it: selfless dedication. They put others first. Their dedication is unparalleled," City of St. Petersburg Fire Chief James Large added.