SWFL first responders return after assisting in Surfside


It was an emotional homecoming for Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 6 who returned to Southwest Florida after assisting with the Surfside building collapse.

Families cheered them on as they returned to a Bonita Springs fire station.

Long-awaited embraces with loved ones and signs of support were what greeted the members of Task Force 6 once they returned home. They spent the last week in Surfside.

Greg DeWitt is the leader of Task Force 6. “It’s bittersweet to be home. There’s still a lot to be done over there so that part is a little disappointing. There are still people that need closure,” DeWitt said.

Task Force 6 worked 12-hour shifts digging through the rubble. As they worked day and night removing rubble and fighting a fire in the process, being around the impacted families had to be the most difficult part.

“A couple different times they would yell out their loved ones name and that was like if you weren’t expecting that it was kind of like ‘woah what’s going on,’” DeWitt said.

They even worked alongside the Miami firefighter who lost his daughter in the collapse.

Shane Sibert is the program manager of Task Force 6. “That is a humbling experience for me. And to know that right before we left we were able help recover and help him with closure. He’s family,” Sibert said.

The very thing that helped Task Force 6 through the hardships was their families. During their week in Surfside, the task force emphasized ‘family first.’

“That was our motto. Every day at 11 o clock have you called your family have you called the loved ones back home because they’re the ones that are your support system,” DeWitt said.

Even though they’re back in Southwest Florida now, their thoughts and hearts remain in Surfside.

Task Force 6 had to return home due to Tropical Storm Elsa. They are the only search and rescue team in the state ready to respond to possible storm impacts right now.

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