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Lifeguards on high alert as visitors pack Pismo Beach over Labor Day weekend

Lifeguard tower.JPG
Posted at 5:29 PM, Sep 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-05 23:38:24-04

As extreme heat continues to blanket much of California, locals and tourists have flocked to the beaches to find some relief.

Lifeguards are tasked with keeping track of everyone in the water at Pismo Beach.

“It’s that constant scanning, that constant attention to detail, that constant patrolling and communication between all the towers that we keep our beaches safe,” said Carlos Pacheco, CAL FIRE fire captain and City of Pismo Beach lifeguard coordinator.

Pismo Beach has five towers with 25 lifeguards on staff. Around seven work at a time.

With more people at the beach comes heightened precautions and an extra guard patrolling the coastline.

“I think it makes it seem safer, period, just having that presence,” said Mathew Medaxian, who is visiting Pismo from the Bay Area.

“We were out on the beach yesterday and I saw more people on the beach swimming and with their pop-up tents then I’ve ever seen out here and there’s a lot of lifeguards out there and I think they’re doing a good job,” said Grover Beach resident Rick Rattazzi.

Beaches on the Central Coast have always drawn a crowd but even more so with the recent heat.

By Monday afternoon, CAL FIRE estimates, there had already been 8,000 visitors to Pismo Beach, up from around 5,000 on a regular day.

In the two days leading up to Labor Day, fire officials say 29,000 beachgoers had already made their way to Pismo.

“With the high heat, the beautiful weather we have here and the proximity to a lot of tourists, it generates those numbers and we’re usually aware and anticipate those high numbers,” Pacheco said.

The lifeguards start preparing in February for the stampede of people, retraining both mentally and physically with intense swims, rescue plans and certifications through the governing body USLA.

CAL FIRE will be monitoring the number of visitors at the beach and eventually, no longer have lifeguards on duty until next season.

CAL FIRE says that usually happens around October or November.