DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — The Destin-Fire Rescue Department said 2022 is a record year for water rescues.

The lifeguards rescued 61 people during the Memorial Day Weekend. 86 in the first 10 days of June.

“I’m not quite sure what the driving factor is, but we’re seeing people coming to the beach earlier and stay later. Less people going fishing, less people maybe going shopping, but certainly a ton of people on the beach,” said Beach Safety Division chief or the Destin Fire Control District Joe D’Agostino. 

Out of more than 100 people rescued this year, the majority are males in their 20s and 30s. D’Agostino said they have pulled out kids as young as 5, and adults up to 80-years-old.

“We did have a little bit of a tropical disturbance come through the gulf, so we did have some waves last weekend, but it’s a combination of everything people just having too much of a good time.  Maybe a little bit of alcohol just maybe overestimating their swim abilities as well, but it’s been a combination of everything,” said D’Agostino. “Risk equals hazard plus people, and we’ve got a lot of people here.”

The Destin Fire-Rescue team has not increased manpower for the 2022 season. D’Agostino said with the increase in call volume year-round, the department needs to look at year-round lifeguard duty.

“It’s really just the overwhelming amount of people that we have visiting to this area and just not that much public safety. Not that much staff on the beach,” said Agostino. “I don’t think the flags make a difference. They may help a little bit, but you need lifeguards. Flags, and text messages don’t save anyone’s life. 25-year-old young men and women that can paddleboard like a demon, that’s what saves someone life.”

Joe D’Agostino, Destin Fire Control District

To get a daily beach flag warning from the Destin Fire-Rescue Department, text BEACH to 44144. The flags can change during the day depending on the weather.

“Heed the advice of the lifeguards you need to follow the flag system when we say it’s red, it’s red. That does mean it’s dangerous,” said D’Agostino. “And maybe take it a little bit easy on the good time. We’re not saying you can’t enjoy yourself while you’re at the beach, but sometimes you know people have too much of a good thing.”

D’Agostino said the Fourth of July weekend will be packed. He hopes for good weather and for people to stay safe.

“I hope not to see a hurricane as well. I’d like to have a nice warm flat gulf with no storms that would be absolutely perfect,” said D’Agostino.

The Junior lifeguard program started Monday. To find out more about the summer sessions, click here.

Rip Current Safety:

Chief D’Agostino said rip currents get rough after storms move through the area. He has tips for anyone that is stuck in a strong current.

“If you get caught in a rip current, don’t panic. Swim parallel to the beach. Try and find a section where there are waves and make your way to the shore,” said D’Agostino.