Ocean rescues off Santa Monica’s beaches swelled dramatically this past year, reflecting increased demand on lifeguards throughout the county as people flocked to the coast amid a sustained spell of warm weather.

There were 2,605 total rescues performed by Los Angeles County ocean lifeguards in Santa Monica in 2014, according to fire department data, more than double the 968 recorded two years ago and a 61-percent jump from the 1,614 tallied in 2013.

Santa Monica accounted for more than 16 percent of the county’s record 15,851 total ocean rescues, a figure that smashed the previous mark of 14,096 that was set in 1997.

“Sunnier days led to more people at the beach and a higher demand on lifeguard resources,” said Kenichi Haskett, a captain in the county fire department lifeguard division. “Everything went up.”

When officials released data on 2014 rescues in the county earlier this year, acting chief lifeguard Steve Moseley explained that unseasonably warm weather and ocean temperatures kept people at the beaches in months that typically have less activity.

Larger surf patterns, which can create potentially dangerous inshore holes, contributed to the spike in ocean rescues as well.

“The combination of consistent surf and inshore holes caused rip currents to form more frequently along our coast,” Moseley said.

In Santa Monica, full-time staffers at the towers near Ocean Park and Wilshire boulevards collect data daily. The numbers are used to determine staffing levels and justify the costs of services to county officials.

“We have to be vigilant of our staffing levels and be cognizant of how we staff the beaches,” said Haskett, who noted an increase dependence on seasonal or part-time lifeguards in 2014. “We make sure we calculate the data and review it to make sure it’s consistent with the needs of the public.”

Although estimated beach attendance in Santa Monica dipped slightly from 18.7 million in 2013 to 17.7 million last year, local lifeguards were significantly busier than usual.

They handled 77,148 ordinance issues in the calendar year, a 19-percent jump from 2013 and a 28-percent increase over the 2011 figure. The incidents involved a variety of beach violations pertaining to drinking alcohol, glass bottles, pets, fires and other city and county codes.

Emergency vehicle responses have risen steadily on Santa Monica beaches over the last four years. There were 3,954 in 2011, 4,485 in 2012, 4,763 in 2013 and 5,562 this past year.

Santa Monica lifeguards performed 2,491 ocean rescues last year, a 69-percent increase over the 2013 tally. About 80 percent of the rescues typically involve swimmers stuck in rip currents, Haskett said.

“If you’re getting pulled away from the shore, don’t panic,” he said. “Try to stay afloat and conserve energy. Don’t try to swim against it — it’s like swimming up a river. Swim parallel to shore and then come back in.”

More than 73.8 million people attended county beaches last year, according to estimates, 35 percent more than the 20-year average.

Beachgoers can improve safety in the water by swimming in front of staffed lifeguard stations, knowing their limits and not drinking alcohol, Haskett said. Parents are encouraged to supervise their children and make sure they know the number of their closest lifeguard station.

Beachgoers are also encouraged to ask on-duty lifeguards about conditions before entering the water.

“That’s what we’re there for,” he said.

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, jeff@www.smdp.com or on Twitter.

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