Carlsbad to add lifeguards to unprotected stretch of public beach

Interim program will run from March to October
Posted at 7:38 AM, Jan 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-18 10:38:24-05

CARLSBAD, Calif. (KGTV) - For the second straight summer, the Carlsbad Fire Department will add lifeguards to a one-mile stretch of coast on public land.

The Carlsbad City Council approved the idea Tuesday at their meeting.

Last summer, the program ran from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. The fire department says they performed about 335 rescues throughout the summer.

This year, the lifeguards will be on duty from mid-March until October. They'll patrol a one-mile stretch of beach from Pine Street to the northern city limits. It's the only stretch of Carlsbad's seven miles of coast that isn't a state park.

State parks have their own lifeguards from the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

"Everybody that's down on the beach should swim in front of a lifeguard," said Carlsbad Fire Department Division Chief Mike Calderwood. "Our main goal is to provide that extra measure in our beaches."

Calderwood said last summer, in addition to the rescues, the lifeguards were able to focus on preventative safety measures. He said face-to-face interaction helped them teach swimmers about the dangers on any given day, and that led to far fewer people needing to be rescued.

In comparison, in 2016, when state lifeguards would lend a hand on the public beach, they did about 300 rescues in the area during the Fourth of July weekend.

"If you can prevent the rescue from happening, that's what you want to do. You want to prevent that danger before it occurs," said Calderwood. "It's as simple as a conversation."

The plan is to have five lifeguards staffing three observation points on the beach. One will be a full-time firefighter with lifeguard and paramedic training who will be in a truck. The others will be seasonal workers.

The fire department has $350,000 budgeted for the program this summer.

In the meantime, the City Council will look into the best way to protect the public beach full time. One option is to make the fire department program permanent.

The Council will also see if any other cities or counties who already have lifeguards are interested in adding the beach to their jurisdiction on a contract basis.

They'll revisit the issue in October.