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Okaloosa Island lifeguards extend hours of operation

OKALOOSA COUNTY   --  OKALOOSA ISLAND - Beach visitors now have lifeguard protection for an additional two hours a day.

The new schedule, which keeps lifeguards on the beach from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., kicked off over the Fourth of July weekend.

The extended coverage was prompted by a recent increase in evening water rescues and an after-hours drowning in June.

"That really kind of brought it to the surface," Okaloosa County Public Safety Director Dino Villani said. "We found we have a gap, and the gap seemed to be between 6 and 8 p.m."

The evening hours are critical because more tourists are on the beach and staying there well past dinnertime.