‘Invaluable service’: Polk County chaplains provide support to Surfside first responders

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Three Polk County Fire Rescue chaplains are assisting first responder crews following the Surfside condo collapse.

The department said Chaplain Murphy Hanley returned last week from a three-day deployment and Sherri Grimes and Bill DeHart are serving multi-day deployments this week.

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Their assistance was requested from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

“Our fellow firefighters requested our service in this tragedy, and we are proud to assist them in any way we can,” Polk Fire Chief Robert Weech said in a statement. “Our chaplains provide an invaluable service for the spiritual health and mental wellbeing of all firefighters. And in a circumstance, such as this in Miami, their services are in great demand.”

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The department said Polk’s chaplains are working with firefighters and emergency medical personnel to provide guidance to those who need emotional or spiritual support following the tragedy.

In the case of the Miami search and recovery mission, they are also on the ground with first responders, in hard hats ready to immediately provide their services.

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“There is nothing easy about responding to a tragedy like this,” Weech said. “That scene takes an emotional and physical toll on those first responders working it. I’m proud our chaplains can assist in comforting those who are working to bring closure to all the families affected by this.”

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.