Fort Fisher to get five new lifeguards

Reported by Gavin Johnson - bio|email
Reported by Claire Simms - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

FORT FISHER, NC (WECT) - After a busy Memorial Day weekend of rescues, state officials decided to pay for five new lifeguards to take the pressure off other emergency officials along the beach.

Those five positions were originally not in the budget because of the slow economy and budget cuts.

"People who were involved in the budget cuts in Raleigh didn't really realize and equate, perhaps, lifeguards with public safety," said Kure Beach Mayor Mac Montgomery.  "One child saved is with worth ten, a hundred time that much."

The addition of the lifeguards will benefit swimmers on the entire shoreline, because lifeguards from Kure Beach can now concentrate on their stretch of sand instead of splitting time between two beaches.

Lifeguards from Kure Beach had to drive to Fort Fishers to respond to calls for help.

"It kind of scares us a little bit, because when there's a rescue down there we have to respond to that which means our beach is short handed," said Kure Beach lifeguard Jamie McSteen.  "If something happened on our beach then it could be just as scary as running down there."

To make the matter worse, Kure Beach lifeguards couldn't drive down the beach because of erosion and stones at historic sites.  They had to take town streets to respond to rescues at Fort Fisher which made the response time longer.

"Normally park visitors will call 911 or come get one of us," said Fort Fisher Superintendent Jeff Owen. "When that process is started we make sure 911 has been contacted and then we all will personally call a Kure Beach lifeguard to get them in route."

Some beach-goers say adding more eyes will put them more at ease.

"I have two children and I would definitely feel more comfortable knowing that as a single parent, trying to watch two kids at the beach is very difficult," said Todd Swank.  "To know there's someone there to help, I love it. I think it's a great idea."

Officials say they are already looking at people to fill the positions, and they could be suiting up in as soon as a week.

"We're going from 0 to 5 and that means immediately that families that are visiting the beach at Fort Fisher with children can rest assured that someone is watching," said Montgomery.

Officials on Pleasure Island say public safety should be a priority, even during a recession.

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