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Beach season approaching fast

Despite Newport Beach fire department budget cuts, its lifeguard staffing remains stable.

May 28, 2010|By Joseph Serna

With Memorial Day around the corner and the end of school just a month away for Newport-Mesa students, Newport Beach lifeguards are preparing for the beginning of the summer beach season.

The weather should be perfect for a relaxing day at the beach this weekend and into the holiday Monday, said lifeguard Battalion Chief Jim Turner. Winds should lift the water temperature by Monday, when it's expected to be in the mid-70s, Turner said.

There will be about 50% staffing for the weekend, meaning one patrol unit for west Newport, the Balboa Peninsula and Corona del Mar State Beach, officials said. About half of the lifeguard towers will be open on each side of the beach, Turner said.

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The city's financial straits have not affected lifeguard staffing for the summer, Turner said.

The city's lifeguards operate under the Fire Department umbrella but have not had to cut lifeguards. Cuts in the department have been administrative and not to the front-line that directly protects the public along the coast, Turner said.

By the end of June, all the lifeguard towers will be manned and there will be multiple vehicle patrols on the sand and rescue boats in the water.

Last year more than 9.8 million people visited Newport Beach's coastline, according to fire department statistics. Lifeguards rescued 4,352 people and did 101,200 preventive actions.

There were two beach-related deaths last year. One man drowned trying to bodysurf the Wedge during last year's swell that brought 25-foot waves. Another man had a heart attack in the water.

Beach Safety Tips

Swim near a lifeguard.

Learn to swim.

Never swim alone.

Don't fight the current. Instead, swim parallel to the shore until the current relaxes, then swim to shore.

Swim sober.

Don't dive headfirst into the water.

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