Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis honored members of Florida’s Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Force 7 on Tuesday, following Herculean efforts undertaken by the task force during the Champlain Towers Condo Collapse in Surfside.
Holding a press conference today alongside elected officials and leaders of the Florida fire service community, the CFO highlighted the task force efforts as a part of his “Year of the US&R” statewide tour. Notably, Patronis honored members of US&R Task Force 7 with Surfside Memorial Challenge Coins, distributing a total of 27 challenge coins to task force members.
“As the State Fire Marshal, I felt compelled to do something to honor these heroes for everything they sacrificed. In today’s ceremony, we honored them with a challenge coin and a ribbon for them to wear on their uniform. The challenge represents respect, unity and courage, values that Florida firefighters live by. It is my hope that these coins are passed on through generations of their children, and their children, and their children, so that everyone knows that heroes walk amongst us,” Patronis said.
Patronis, who doubles as the State Fire Marshal, has been a fierce advocate for Florida’s first responders. One of the CFO’s top legislative priorities for the 2022 Legislative Session has been securing additional funding — $10 million — for Florida’s Urban Search & Rescue Task Forces. Patronis added that the funding will be used to support Florida’s eight US&R Task Forces through new vehicles and equipment, as well as training and sustainment programs.
“I’ve made it my top priority this year to tour the state and fight for $10 million in funding for Florida’s US&R task forces,” said Patronis. “A huge thank you to Governor DeSantis for including this $10 million investment for US&R teams as part of his budget. The Governor’s support gives this effort a great chance for success, but we’re not taking any of it for granted. Until it crosses the finish line, we’ll keep fighting for our US&R teams, especially as the world witnessed their heroism at Surfside, Florida.”
Aside from stressing the importance of providing US&R teams with cutting-edge resources and tools to help save lives, Patronis also noted the professionalism of Florida’s Urban Search and Rescue Teams, applauding the men and women who put their lives-on-the-line every day in hopes of a saving a life following the Surfside condo collapse.
“It was an honor to be in Tallahassee today and recognize the brave men and women of Florida’s US&R Task Force 7. I saw the work of God when hundreds of Florida’s Urban Search & Rescue Team members fought, and kept fighting, for any hopes of life. They worked 12 hour shifts in the Miami summer, cutting rebar, cutting concrete, filling 5-gallon buckets of debris, hand-by-hand,” Patronis said. “These men and women battled fire, they battled rain, they battled the heat. Their boots and gloves were destroyed. On that mound of rubble, I saw hell on Earth. But I also saw God’s presence in the men and women that fought with every ounce of their being to save lives. Surfside was a tragedy on a mass scale, and it’s going to stick with me forever.”
I had the opportunity of honoring Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 7 today in Tallahassee for their efforts at Surfside. These men and women are heroes and we will continue fighting for them as they work to serve our communities. @cotfire pic.twitter.com/izz8RcjkNO
— Jimmy Patronis (@JimmyPatronis) February 8, 2022