Chicago seeks lifeguards amid shortage, growing crowds and rising temperatures

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As scores of people flocking to local beaches to beat the heat, lifeguards are needed to potentially save lives.

At 12th Street Beach, it's only gotten busier as the temperature rises.

Lifeguards in boats have been keeping a close eye on beach-goers, but actually becoming one takes time. As a result, fewer are applying.

"You literally have people's lives on your watch that you're taking care of," said Dave Benjamin, cofounder of the Great Lakes Surf Project, which works to prevent drownings in the region.

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He said the shortage starts with recruitment.

"Unfortunately, right now is where we are, but we need to start today to start recruiting for next summer," Benjamin said.

Just to become a lifeguard in Chicago, applicants must be at least 16, be a Chicago resident, be fully vaccinated, pass a swim test and be certified by the American Red Cross. Not to mention, it's a ton of responsibility.

"I think it takes a special human to want to be a lifeguard and go out and help other people," said Forrest Wagner, a lifeguard instructor in Westmont.

He said he had to cancel a class this spring because so few signed up.

"I generally take 10 to 15 lifeguards and only two students signed up for the class," Wagner said.

As the sun beams down, Benjamin is hopeful more will feel called to the chair.
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