Fires hamper search for victims of Florida building collapse

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Fires burning in the rubble of the deadly Florida condo tower collapse are hampering efforts to search for survivors, a state official said Friday.

Florida state Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis told CNN that Miami-Dade County rescue teams were “doing the best they can with what they’ve got,” but added that the blazes in the 30-foot pile of debris posed “a tremendous risk.”

“You’re adding water to the building to control the fire while men and women are saving lives, and that water adds a tremendous amount of weight,” said Patronis, who is also the state’s chief financial officer.

“It then challenges the integrity of what’s still standing there, and then that delicate balance of saving lives while risking lives.”

Patronis also noted that various household items scattered amid the wreckage of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, near Miami Beach, posed the potential for additional fires breaking out.

“You get a lot of lithium-ion batteries and other combustible materials that eventually they will catch to a point where they will ignite,” he said.

In addition to using trained dogs to sniff out survivors among the 159 people listed as missing, the searchers are “of course listening for anything that could be a clanging,” Patronis said.

“But as you’re pumping water out, you’re also shifting materials. That creates a ripple effect and you’re competing with all the noise of the equipment,” he added.

Additional rescue teams from Orlando and Naples were expected to join the search effort Friday, Patronis said.

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