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Pittsburgh Firefighters Sent To Surfside For Rescue And Recovery Efforts: 'You Keep Holding Out Hope'

PITTSBURGH (KKDA) - Two Pittsburgh firefighters sent to Surfside, Florida to help with rescue and recovery efforts spoke to KDKA's Amy Wadas about their experience.

They're members of Ohio Task Force 1, which is based out of Dayton. The urban search and recovery team is getting ready to pull out of Florida after countless days of sifting through debris looking for victims.

"It's been long, 12 hours on, 12 hours off," said Pittsburgh Fire Captain Joe Janosko.

The Pittsburgh fire captain and rescue specialist with Ohio Task Force 1 said it's been a long nine days with little sleep and one goal in mind: looking for victims.

"We know coming down here the window of opportunity for survivors was closing pretty rapidly. We knew what we were getting ourselves into," said Janosko.

"As a team, I think we were able to recover 14 victims. It was nice being able to help with the closures with the families," said Pittsburgh Fire Lieutenant and Rescue Specialist with Ohio Task Force 1 Joe Garrison.

These men said it's not an easy task searching through rubble.

"The pile itself is made up of sand and gravel and hunks of steel, mostly rebar. Lots of exposed rebar. You had to watch every step because stuff would move under your feet. If you slip and fall, you can become impaled by a piece of rebar," said Janosko.

"We brought a lot of structural engineers. They were doing their thing, keeping a close eye on the building. Anytime anything got froggy, they pulled everybody off," said Garrison.

As the days continue on and the crews begin to leave, Janosko said they're still holding onto one thing.

"In the back of your mind, you keep holding out hope. People survived multiple days in things," said Janosko.

Ohio Task Force 1 is expected to arrive back in Dayton on Thursday, then both Janosko and Garrison will head back to Pittsburgh after that.

Meantime, the next hurdle is coping with what they saw. They said the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire is providing support.

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