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Firefighter and lifeguard personnel will soon take over Oceanside Harbor safety services. Photo by Samantha Nelson
Firefighter and lifeguard personnel will soon take over Oceanside Harbor safety services. Photo by Samantha Nelson
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Fire, lifeguards to take over Oceanside harbor safety services

OCEANSIDE — The city of Oceanside is implementing a new safety plan to provide 24/7 emergency services with firefighter, lifeguard and paramedic personnel stationed in the harbor.

The Oceanside Police Department currently provides safety services, but the new proposal will switch to a firefighter-lifeguard model instead.

Since 2020, staff has been working with the Harbor and Beaches Advisory Committee to create a new land and water safety services plan in the harbor.

The harbor used to have its own patrol model before the police took over. However, that changed during the recession in the late 2000s due to a lack of funding.

Over the past two and a half years, three options have been evaluated to improve safety services in the harbor, including a standalone security model, a return to the previous Harbor Patrol Model, and a newer option that used a combined fire and lifeguard approach. Out of the three options, the fire and lifeguard model was ultimately chosen.

The new safety plan will provide a lifeguard lieutenant stationed on a 40-hour work week to act as the supervisor of the latest safety plan. This position would answer to the harbor manager and act as a liaison between the fire department and the harbor.

Day-to-day operations will include three 24-hour shifts, each consisting of a lifeguard sergeant, a senior beach lifeguard and a firefighter/paramedic. Together these positions will provide boat operations within the harbor and offshore, rescue swimmers, fire suppression, emergency medical services, hazardous material response, and vessel, dock and facility inspections.

Previous iterations of the plan included fire captain positions, but following the Harbor Beaches and Advisory Committee’s approval of the plan in August, those positions were changed to firefighter/paramedics to provide paramedic-level of first response services rather than life support services.

The assigned firefighters/paramedics must pass a swim test and be trained as rescue boat operators.

The city has also agreed with the Oceanside Marina Suites Hotel to provide overnight accommodations for the new safety staff. However, this is not a permanent solution. Staff is continuing to review options and obtain grant funding to construct a new facility or remodel an existing facility for this purpose. In the meantime, two guest suites will be used for the personnel.

The harbor is also planning to hire additional private security to provide overnight patrols of parking lots, restroom checks, dock checks and other security needs.

The city is saving nearly $240,000 annually by changing the safety plan. Projected costs to maintain the police department presence would have reached $2.8 million. Meanwhile, the new plan, including the hotel suites and private security, is about $2.56 million.

“The goal is to fully implement the fire/lifeguard model by early 2023,” said Fire Chief David Parsons.

Staff will continue to update the plan to both Council and harbor stakeholders.

Liz Rhea, chair of the Harbor and Beaches Advisory Committee, said the plan “has been a long-time coming.”

“I’ve had the privilege of working with (City Manager Jonathan Borrego) on this for over two years, and throughout this whole stressful situation, I think we have a place to start,” Rhea said. “But everybody has to remember this is just a starting place – we will have updates from them, we will analyze what’s going on and make recommendations for changes.”