Over 30 water rescues even flying double red flags

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WALTON COUNTY Fla. (WMBB) — South Walton Fire District Beach Safety had a busy weekend responding to numerous water rescues.

First responders in Walton County dealt with over 30 water rescues this past weekend, even though double red flags were flying. One lifeguard was rushed to the hospital after saving a swimmer who was stuck in a rip current.

“The initial tally is 31 water rescues,” said Beach Safety Director for South Walton Fire District, David Vaughan.

There were many rescues in dangerous conditions because of the directional winds caused by Hurricane Laura. But currently, not many citations were given. 

“A water rescue that was very serious, and took a while to get in,” said Vaughan. “And one of our lifeguards had to be taken to the hospital for a near-drowning experience.”

That guard is now out of the hospital.

“We help with enforcement as far as alerting our law enforcement partners, understand who has been put on notice, both constructive and actual notice,” said Vaughan. “But we are not the ticket writers.”

Code Enforcement and the Walton County Sheriff’s Department are in charge of giving citations.

From this weekend the WCSO said they responded to 22 beach ordinance violations. But only one citation was given.

“We are looking forward to our discussions with law enforcement partners about the best way to move forward, on enforcing the double red flags,” said Vaughan.

Vaughn said law enforcement is called as a last resort when dealing with defiance, hostility, and abusive responses. 

Just like signs state, if you do see those double reds flying, that does indicate the beach is closed. However, visitors can still stay on the dry sand.

“When they say don’t go in, don’t go in,” said Jim Handler who is visiting the area from Nashville.

But that was not the case this past weekend.

“Pay attention to what we are trying to tell you,” Vaughan said.

Until wind strength calms down, Vaughan said beach-goers can expect to see double red flags still flying because of the chance of rip currents.

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