TVFR team answered call to help at Surfside condo collapse

Washington County

TVFR Peer Support Team traveled to Florida

TUALATIN, Ore. (KOIN) — When the condo building collapsed in Surfside, Florida, members of Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue answered the call to help respond to the tragedy.

The International Association of Firefighters called on TVFR’s Peer Support Team to travel to Florida.

“We came in after the initial collapse,” said Lt. Jeff Campbell, a TVFR paramedic and the Peer support coordinator. “It was a pretty heavy scene, you know, with a lot of expectations on the crews working.”

Campbell, Brandon Henry and Kyle Leonard worked with Miami-Dade Fire & Rescue to provide support and counseling to search teams, firefighters and their families. Campbell said the team acts as a bridge “to get our members, when they are feeling bad, to a place of health where they can speak with a clinician or speak with a chaplain or speak with us as peers.”

The situation was intense from the day they arrived, he said.

Rescue workers handle a tarp containing recovered remains at the site of the collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Fla. The remaining structure was demolished Sunday. Many people remain unaccounted for. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

“That’s when the little girl who’s the daughter of the Miami city firefighter was found,” Campbell told KOIN 6 News. “They requested our team from Oregon — we were there getting a tour — they asked us to come to the site. We stayed for about three-and-a-half hours and provided support for the search-and-rescue teams that found that little girl.”

Along with helping responders process grief and loss they also helped with the impacts of extreme stress.

“The building, there were questions of whether it was stable or not, which puts a lot of pressure of those guys working in the collapse zone.”

The TVFR Peer Support Team also provided support when the building was demolished.

“That brought a lot of sadness for the community,” he said.

The TVFR Peer Support Team traveled to Miami to help with the Surfside condo collapse, July 2021 (TVFR)

Overall, they were able to help around 450 people during their trip, he said.

Peer support teams helped firefighters when the 2020 wildfires destroyed Oregon communities. Campbell said the team was proud to help in Florida, too.

“For us it was quite an honor to be there, to be asked to come to represent TVFR and represent IAFF Local 1660 in the state of Oregon,” he said.

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