Carolina Beach Firefighters train for rip current rescues - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Carolina Beach Firefighters train for rip current rescues

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Carolina Beach Firefighters training for rip current safety. (Source: WECT) Carolina Beach Firefighters training for rip current safety. (Source: WECT)
CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WECT) -

Hurricane Arthur is long gone, leaving minimal damage to southeastern, North Carolina; however, officials say that's no excuse to let your guard down. Even though the tropics are quiet for now, our ocean waters can still be a serious hazard.

Members of the Carolina Beach Fire Department spent Monday night in the water, training for the next time they are forced to rescue a swimmer or surfer in need. Officials said one of the biggest challenges about water rescues are the rip currents.

Since 2000, there have been 101 rip current fatalities in North and South Carolina combined, according to Steve Pfaff with the National Weather Service in Wilmington. That number is higher than any other weather related incidents, according to weather experts.

Pfaff said most victims are middle-aged men between the ages of 31-50. He was disturbed to find out that there is a growing trend of bystanders falling victim to drowning as well.

Four of the last 16 drowning victims in the Carolinas have been people who jumped in to help, but weren't ready for the strong rip currents.

"It's like a treadmill. You get sucked back in to the ocean and you can't get back out," Pfaff said. "So when someone runs in to help, they get stuck on that treadmill too and all of a sudden we have a bad situation where not just the drowning victim is in trouble, but so is the person trying to perform the rescue."

When you see a swimmer in trouble, Pfaff recommends to alert a lifeguard or call 911, instead of diving in to help.

Pfaff said due to the wind and wave patterns, there is a heightened risk for rip currents this week, especially along the southern facing Brunswick County beaches.

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