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Cal Fire says lifeguards are making fewer water rescues in Pismo Beach despite influx of visitors

Posted at 12:57 AM, Jan 22, 2020

PISMO BEACH, Calif. — Pismo Beach lifeguards say they're having to make fewer water rescues despite an increase in the number of people visiting the beach.

The influx of visitors means more people to potentially go missing, but the department says water rescues have gone down over 50 percent from 2017.

Cal Fire says they have changed the way they are patrolling the beaches in order to continue to keep people safe.

While a trip to the beach can be relaxing, Mother Nature can often be unpredictable.

No one knows that more than surfer and Esteem Surf Shop Creative Coordinator Raenna Iunker

She says the store cautions first time visitors to the beach before they head out on their boards.

"Pismo Beach doesn't have any gnarly drop offs, rocks or any kind of terrible rip currents that can drag you out - but they can happen. So just be mindful of that because the ocean is its own deal and it can be dangerous," Iunker said.

During the summer months, visitors also have the watchful eyes of the Pismo Beach lifeguards.

Cal Fire says they've recently changed how they're patrolling the beaches.

"Being more reachable, being more approachable, being out there, talking with people about how dynamic the ocean is and just by doing that we saw our call volumes going down dramatically," explained Paul Lee, Cal Fire Battalion Chief.

Lee says the department went from making 74 water rescues in 2017 to just 20 in 2019.

Lee believes education and dangerous rip current signs have made people more aware of the risks out on the water.

While the number of rescues is going down, the number of visitors to Pismo Beach continues to increase, leading to another issue for lifeguards - reports of missing people.

"With more people coming to the beach - sometimes children get lost. About 95% of our missing persons are children and are reunited within 10-15 minutes," Lee said.

The department received 34 reports of missing people in 2017 and 63 in 2019.

Cal Fire says having lifeguards spend more time on the sand than in the towers has helped create a safer environment for everyone.

"So having that lifeguard patrolling down on the sand itself allows that lifeguard to make contact and understand what that person's swim skill-set is. [They] can better design a safer place for that person to swim that day," said Lee.

Cal Fire says they will be at Cal Poly Wednesday, January 22nd to recruit for the 2020 lifeguard season.

They anticipate the job openings to be listed on the city of Pismo Beach's website by next week.