Man rescued from water in Ocean Shores now has criticism for City Council

An Ocean Shores man, who was rescued out of the ocean last week, wants city leaders to reactivate the Surf and Rescue Team that was cut due to funding in 2013. (Photo: Ocean Shores Fire Dept.)

OCEAN SHORES, Wash. - An Ocean Shores man, who was rescued out of the ocean last week, wants city leaders to reconsider a decision he believes is putting lives in danger.

A large wave knocked Jim Brannan out of his fishing boat last Tuesday evening. He tried to pull himself back up, but ended up flipping the vessel.

After calming himself, he began swimming toward shore and blowing the whistle on his life jacket.

Rescuers from Ocean Shores Fire Department showed up on the beach, after someone reported the situation. But to Brannan’s surprise, no one got in the water.

“For a moment I thought are you guys just going to stand there and watch me drown?” Brannan said.

The Ocean Shores Fire Department no longer goes beyond waist deep water. They used to have a Surf Rescue Team that used Sea-Doos to reach people in the water.

But in 2013, amidst a slow recovery from the recession, the Ocean Shores City Council cut funding for the unit, saving the city more than $50,000 annually.

Surf rescue is dangerous work. The team lost two crew members before the team was deactivated. One city councilmember said that loss of life also factored into their decision.

Now the fire department’s main shore rescue tool is a line gun that fires a life line 800 feet. For anyone further out, they rely on the U.S. Coast Guard, who deploys from Westport - which can take 10 to 15 minutes by boat.

Brannan swam close enough to grab the line. He praised the firefighters who were able to pull him out. But, he thinks Ocean Shores needs to bring the Surf Rescue Team back.

“You can’t have a beach community without that,” he said.

The Ocean Shores City Council has never discussed reactivating the Surf Rescue Team, according to Councilman John Lynn. Lynn said he voted against deactivating the team, but now he’s concerned with the potential cost of retraining and staffing the unit.

“It would be, and I’m just guessing, a couple years to get them all trained,” Lynn said. “It’s just not a, let’s do it today and it’s done.”

Lynn hopes the issue will come up during upcoming city elections, though he says the Council has no scheduled plans to discuss it.

Ocean Shores Fire is considering new tools to improve their rescue efforts, including a drone that could drop a life line into the ocean with precision. The department estimates 10 to 12 shore rescues each year.

“I think that, as a department, we’re obligated to work with the city and use whatever options they give us,” Captain Brian Ritter said. “And that’s where we’re at.”

Capt. Ritter said the department is fortunate to have any resources for shore rescues, and stressed that the department will continue to support people who need help near Ocean Shores.

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