SURFSIDE, FLA. (WSVN) - Crews were able to contain a persistent fire at the site of the partial collapse of a condominium building in Surfside that posed a challenge while they and elite task forces from across the state searched for survivors, officials said.

As the third day of a massive rescue mission at Champlain Towers’ South Tower dawned got underway, Saturday, first responders continued to work around the clock.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said search-and-rescue efforts proved to be even more challenging than anticipated due to the fire.

Part of the problem, the mayor said, was that crews were initially unable to reach where the blaze started.

“It’s a very deep fire. It’s extremely difficult to locate the source of the fire,” she said.

But by Saturday evening, crews were able to get a handle on the fire.

“We did make some progress with the fire and the smoke, and we were able to continue searching with fewer limitations,” she said.

Crews used specialized heavy machinery to find a way around the smoke and flames and tackle the mound of concrete and debris.

“We swept the pile with the K-9s. We tried to minimize the heavy equipment, and we’ve continued to use sonar and cameras.” said Levine Cava.

Firefighters are also working underneath the pile to find crevices and open spaces to help in the search.

“We’re continuing to focus on the grid approach to the pile. Our top priority continues to be search-and-rescue and saving any lives that we can,” said Levine Cava.

But as the days turn into night, and the search efforts reach the beginning of a new week, officials are asking for time and patience.

“I know that the families are watching on TV and seeing what’s going on, and possibly thinking to themselves, ‘Well, why isn’t there a hundred people on this pile right now finding my family member?'” said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue spokesperson Maggie Castro, “and what we would like them to understand is that we’re doing this search as quickly, but most importantly, as safely as possible.”

More crews on top of the pile, Castro argued, would slow down and potentially jeopardize search-and-rescue efforts.

“Our number one concern is attempting to find their family members, but if we put a ton of people on this pile, we’re definitely going to shift this pile,” she said, “and if there are any pockets where there are survivors, we could potentially implode those pockets, and then there would be no space for them to survive.”

Those who have missing loved ones should visit the Family Reunification Center, located at 9301 Collins Ave., or call 305-614-1819.

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