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How a lifeguard shortage could impact western Washington beaches this summer

Bellevue and Seattle are dealing with a lifeguard shortage heading into the warmer, summer months.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — We're just a few weeks away from the start of summer, and parks and recreation departments throughout western Washington are dealing with a shortage of lifeguards at pools and beaches.

Jen Newton with the city of Bellevue said they're dealing with a lifeguard shortage, with just 21 lifeguards on staff for six beaches and one pool. The city would like to hire at least 15 to 20 more before June 25 as beaches start to open.

“Most importantly, they keep their eyes on the waters so that families, the communities, feel safe while they're visiting our parks,” said Newton.

Seattle Parks and Recreation is also dealing with a shortage for their nine beaches and 10 pools. The parks department currently has 200 lifeguards on staff for this summer but hopes to hire another 200 over the next few weeks.

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Newton said there are many reasons for the shortage, with the biggest factor being money.

“We’re in competition with retail stores," said Newton. "We're in competition with the private sector for those young, college-age students that like to have summer jobs that are looking to get paid as much as possible."

The city of Bellevue is offering a starting rate of up to $18 an hour for new hires, which is an increase from past summers.

Newton said if they don't get more lifeguards, they plan on closing some of their beaches until they fill the need.

Both Seattle and Bellevue will offer free training and certification for lifeguards.

This is at least the second recent year where cities have faced a lifeguard shortage. 

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