SAN DIEGO — Lifeguard shortages around San Diego County are leaving some beaches less staffed.
The Oceanside Fire Department said when there aren’t enough staff, some of the lifeguard towers have to close. From there, the staff is spread out to make sure the beaches are being covered.
“We try to make it as safe as possible. However, once the shortage, we can’t just put anybody in a tower,” said Lieutenant Emile Lagendijk, with the Oceanside Fire Department.
Oceanside Fire Department said they are down 12 lifeguards. The agency tries to have 40 guards a day for their 16 towers. But when they have fewer staff, they have to get creative.
“We try to strategically place them in more hazardous spots,” Lagendijk said. “If not, we really do not want to not have a lifeguard tower open.”
The department is seeing lifeguards leave due to a career change or competitive wages elsewhere.
“We are in ongoing negotiations to try to get these wages up to attract more people in the workforce down at the beach,”Lagendijk said.
FOX 5’s Alani Letang asked two people at the beach if they wanted to be lifeguards.
“I honestly never thought about it, but I would consider it, be a fun job to have,” resident Faith Webster answered.
Makenzie Homrich and Webster enjoy coming to the beach often to surf or have lunch.
“It’s definitely concerning for people that aren’t from California or aren’t from a beach state that might have children and aren’t aware of how rip currents, or undertows work,” Homrich said.
For people on vacation, Oceanside Fire Department said their lifeguards are there to help visitors enjoy their trip.
“We want people to talk to us, we want people coming to our beaches and loving and feel safe when they come down here,” Lagendijk said.
The requirements to be a lifeguard for the Oceanside Fire Department include a half mile run, swim around the pier in Oceanside and then another half mile run all in 27 minutes.
Then, a person has to do a 600-yard pool swim within 10 minutes.
For those interested in becoming a lifeguard with Oceanside, click here.