LA County Sees Record Number Lifeguard Rescues

With the heat come the beachgoers and the number of rescues spikes

Unseasonably warm weather since summer has led to a spike in the number of water rescues in Southern California.

Lifeguards in Los Angeles County made nearly 16,000 rescues last year, a record. In Santa Monica alone, lifeguards made 2,605 rescues in 2014. That's a 60 percent jump from 2013 and more than double the number in 2012.

An unusually hot summer and unusually warm winter has sent people flocking to the beach on days they normally don't go.

Swimmers like Philip Pocknell is being extra careful.

"I always try and keep like a marker on the beach, like an umbrella or some sort of landmark on there because pretty soon, after five minutes or so, you can be a hundred yards down the beach," he said.

The ocean has more swimmers but also more risk because of consistent surf, strong rip currents, and unexpected holes, surprising people who think they're on firm footing.

"There's a lot of holes in the ocean floor," said Capt. Remy Smith, an LA County lifeguard. "People are getting caught into these holes and we have to go get them."

Also increasing are beach violations such as alcohol. There has also been a steady increase in the need for emergency vehicles.

Adding to the challenge are fewer lifeguards patrolling this time of year. A fraction of lifeguards are working compared to summer, when every tower is patrolled, Smith said.

"It's very challenging right now," he said.

That's why lifeguards are asking beachgoers to stay close to a tower where lifeguards are present. And to ask lifeguards about the conditions in the water.

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