Beach lifeguards, police urging safety for 4th of July

100,000 expected at Jacksonville Beach for holiday

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – One of the busiest places to be on Independence Day is Jacksonville Beach. Police are expecting crowds that could top 100,000 people and a fireworks show starts at 9 p.m.

Lifeguards are working long hours to keep everyone safe. They say they’re worried about the heat, and also missing kids, especially once the sun goes down.

There are about 50 lifeguards on duty in Jacksonville Beach during the holiday to keep beachgoers safe.

"Teach your kids if they ever have an emergency, if they can't find a parent, to go to the lifeguard," said Lt. Max Ervanian of the Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue. "And if the parent cannot find the kid, we want the parents to come to the lifeguard immediately."

Ervanian is one of the guards working around the clock. He said it is a challenge because there are so many people, and the temperatures are topping out at a blistering 95 degrees. It means many will move their celebrations to the water.

Jacksonville Beach police have nearly 60 officers on duty, but needed more because of the crowds. So there are few dozen officers from JSO and other agencies also patrolling. Lifeguards and firefighters are also fully staffed, working together around the clock to protect the people.

"We have everyone on deck. Everyone is here," said Commander Mark Evans, a 28-year veteran of the Jacksonville Beach Police Department. "I've seen some fireworks go bad, some people are really hurt pretty bad. A big deck collapsed because they had a party. People were making these huge waterslides, for whatever reason, and thought it was OK just to block the road."

Ervanian said. "Because anything could happen from chin deep going all the way to chest deep."

There have been a number of drownings at local pools recently. In the past two months, six children have died in the Jacksonville area. Lifeguards at the beach are working hard to keep that startling statistic from growing.

"If you don't know how to swim, don't go anywhere past your ankles. My advice is know your limits," said Ervanian. "If you are not a strong swimmer at a pool, then you're definitely not a strong swimmer in the ocean."

Fireworks in Jacksonville Beach start at 9 p.m. and because the pier is shorter after Hurricane Matthew, there is now a safety zone a few blocks around it. Police have it closed. The pier parking lot is closed Tuesday. So that means less parking. If you are coming out to the beach, plan to arrive early, and if possible, carpool or ride your bike. 


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