Lack of lifeguards leading to reduced pool hours, closures

Local News

EMPIRE, Calif. (KTXL) — Cities and counties are having a hard time hiring lifeguards, leading some public pools to close or reduce hours. 

Kassandra Armas is one of three on-duty lifeguards at the Empire Pool in Stanislaus County. 

“This will be my second year here,” Armas said.  

She said it will be difficult getting re-certified this year. 

“It was hard because they’re only limiting a couple of classes since COVID,” Armas said. 

And she was not alone. It’s part of a trend that is being felt nationwide. 

“If we would have had a hard time with lifeguards, we may have had to say, you know, where we’re at 10% capacity, close one of the pools. All those things that we’re looking at and faced with going into the spring, but luckily, we made it work,” said Bret Silveria.

Silveria is with the Stanislaus County Police Activities League, which manages the only county-owned pool. He said the county and other aquatic facilities in the region were all treading water in the spring trying to hire lifeguards. 

“Once the classes were offered and we were able to get the lifeguards in those classes, then we were OK,” Silveria said.

The city of Modesto says they have 30 fewer lifeguards than they normally do and have had to cut everything but basic swim lessons this summer. 

The Empire Pool, however, is fully staffed with eight total lifeguards and three on-duty for every session. 

“I mean, we have plenty of lifeguards now. The pool is functioning great,” Silveria said. 

Eric Aitken with Tuolumne County says the shortage has forced them to keep two of their pools closed and cut the number of programs they’re able to offer after being shut down all of 2020.

“We have four pools within the county that we operate. And, like I said, on a normal season it takes about 60 seasonal employees to staff those programs and we started this year with seven,” Aitken said.

“The biggest impact I would say is towards swim lesson program, which has always been a priority for Tuolumne County. You know, living up here, we’re surrounded by so many lakes and rivers that making sure the community is safe in and around the water is something that’s really important to this county,” he continued.

With the Empire Pool now open for full capacity, Armas said it’s nice to see families back in the water. 

“What I like about being a lifeguard is you make a person feel safe, and I like that safeness that I bring to the community,” Armas said. “They’re able to see that if they swim, they don’t need to be scared.”

Pool officials are ready for a busy weekend as they expect people to flock to the pool to beat the heat. 

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