Long Beach Lifeguards removed from firefighting duties

LONG BEACH—Entangled in back-and-forth deliberations, the Long Beach Fire Department announced that lifeguards will no longer be performing firefighting duties on rescue boats, an official with the fire department said.

Discussions for further reconfigurations, however, will continue.

firefighter to the boats. In the meantime, the lifeguards will continue to do the lifeguard stuff. That’s the compromise that we have to date.”

All 24 Lifeguard Marine Safety employees will continue to occupy the department’s rescue boats, but will forgo firefighting duties until proper training is completed in what Brandt called a “blended system.”

In the decision—ultimately made by the fire chief—Rescue Boat Two will be augmented with a fire captain. Anticipated training for the lifeguards will include a modified firefighter academy class, which will be optional for lifeguards. Rescue Boat one will continue to house a firefighter, and two other rescue boats will be employed by Marine Safety personnel.

“The decision was made that the current training and safety standards weren’t good for the lifeguards, so we added firefighters to take care of the firefighting duties,” Brandt said. “We are in a process, and we meet weekly right now to go over operational issues with the lifeguard association and our operation division.”

Officials from the Long Beach Lifeguard Association (LBLA) say staffing reconfigurations change “hour by hour.” They also recently refuted a media claim that a full compromise had been made following several meet and confer sessions. Mentioning a May 15 Long Beach Gazette article, which said staffing issues had been resolved, Aaron Fletcher, a Marine Safety officer with the LBLA, said an agreement is still being discussed.

“The article was run without any input from the Long Beach Lifeguard Association,” Fletcher said.

In April, the lifeguards said they were told by the city’s Human Resources office that Lifeguard Marine Safety personnel would be removed from Rescue Boat 1, stationed in Alamitos Bay, and Rescue Boat 2, stationed in Long Beach Downtown Marina. A third rescue boat reportedly would have had all firefighting equipment removed.

“The decision that we’ve been given by the city and firefighter chief has dramatically changed week by week as we’ve gone forward,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher added that many questions remain unanswered, and the lifeguards remain open to discussing training options. He said the earliest implementation date mentioned during meetings was June 14.

“They say we’ll put you through an academy,” Fletcher said. “If we go through an academy, what does the reclassification look like? Does their pay rate change, their seniority change?”

Fletcher said the city declared an official impasse during the meet and confer meetings as officials were still resolute on the staffing change and removal of all firefighting gear.

“Even if you kept all lifeguards on the boat and added firefighters, you’re looking at increasing the costs of the services by a million and a half dollars more, but you’re still going to get the services that we’ve already provided for the last 30 years,” he added.

Brandt said that no matter what changes take place, the publics’ safety will never be compromised.

“There’s always three sides to a story,” Brandt said. “Our main concern is safety and training. That’s always our concern with our people and public safety is always of the utmost importance to us.”

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