Foy Jenkins: Former Miami Fire Chief now lives in Raleigh with key information about Florida condo collapse


RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) – Desperate search and rescue efforts resumed at the site of the collapse in Surfside, Fla. On Thursday evening after a temporary hiatus earlier over fears that the rest of the building does not collapse. ABC11 went for more information on what these rescuers are up against from someone who has been in those same trenches: a former Miami-Dade Division fire chief who now lives here in the Triangle.

Raleigh retiree Foy Jenkins has dedicated his life to fighting fires. He spent 30 years with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, including a stint as chief of special operations – overseeing the same search and rescue teams that now aid in surfside efforts.

“I knew it was big. I didn’t know it was going to be that big,” Jenkins said, describing his first thoughts after learning of the collapse.

Shortly after the fall of much of the Champlain Towers, Jenkins realized how catastrophic it was; a disaster requiring a prolonged operation. The one where four years ago, Jenkins would have played a leading role.

He called it new – in that it wasn’t a terrorist attack or a hurricane that brought down the tower.

“And that’s not something in this country we’re used to seeing because South Florida’s building codes are the strictest in the country,” Jenkins said.

In the collapse zone Thursday, a visit from President Joe Biden.

“The entire nation is in mourning with these families,” Biden said in a speech before expressing the nation’s gratitude to the tired search and rescue teams.

“What you’re doing here now is tough as hell, even psychologically. And I just want to say thank you,” Biden told the crews gathered not far from the rubble.

“The hard thing about it from a lifeguard’s perspective is you want to make a difference,” Jenkins said. “And the (rescuers) are pissed off and are doing all they can, but it’s just because the collapse is so catastrophic.”

Jenkins describes the mission as a methodical and painstaking process in the midst of the worst kind of collapse possible: a pancake collapse.

“There is very little room to move sideways. You have to move vertically,” Jenkins said.

There is no space – just layers of extra thick hurricane resistant concrete. While anxious and grieving families desperately await news from loved ones in what feels like an excruciatingly slow wait.

“It’s (slow) but it’s not,” Jenkins said. “Obviously if I had a family member there it would feel like it’s going slowly, but there’s a lot going on all the time.”

Foy Jenkins returned to his native North Carolina in 2017 to become Chief of the Morrisville Fire Department. He was then Chief Officer of Northern Wake Fire Rescue until his retirement.

He says that over the past week has not passed, that he has not been on the phone with his former colleagues in South Florida to take stock of the operations underway there. low.

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