PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Panama City Beach is giving its fire department a new role. The Beach and Surf Patrol Program will be transferred from the Police Department to Panama City Beach Fire Rescue.
Panama City Beach Fire Rescue is looking to hire more lifeguards when it takes over the Beach and Surf Patrol Program in October. (WJHG)
"The fire department's more geared towards rescue, I mean, than the police department," said Panama City Beach Council Member Paul Casto.
The Fire Department also plans on hiring 12 more firefighters, who will all be trained to do open water rescues.
Fire officials say in the past. lifeguards and the firefighters have worked hand-in-hand whenever there is a life-threatening event.
"We've worked with them for 15 years on all the rescue calls," said Larry Couch, Panama City Beach Fire Rescue's Fire Chief.
Currently, there are three full-time Beach and Surf Patrollers and six part-time lifeguards at the City Pier.
Fire officials say they hope to hire at least one more full-time Beach and Surf Patroller and have a full-time supervisor position. They would also like to hire two more part-time lifeguards who would be around the pier.
Thursday, the city council approved around $600,000 to be transferred from the Police Department to the Fire Rescue to get equipment ordered.
"We're getting two pickup trucks and a UTV," said Couch.
Fire officials say they look forward to this expansion of the agency.
"This is a new direction for our fire department and we're very excited about it," said Couch.
The Panama City Beach Police Department will continue to run the program this summer. The City's Fire Department will take over Beach and Surf Patrol by October.
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