First responders preparing for packed Jacksonville-area beaches over July 4th weekend
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JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – The Fourth of July holiday means tens of thousands of people will hit Jacksonville-area beaches.

It’s among the busiest weekends of the year.

News4JAX learned the Jacksonville Beach Pier will not be open to the public just yet — after a yearslong project to rebuild it because of hurricane damage.

City leaders say the pier should be opening next week, but they’ll use the structure for the beaches fireworks show on Monday night.

In the meantime, beachgoers and first responders are getting ready for a packed weekend.

From the sand to the sidewalks to the streets, beaches-area lifeguards, firefighters and police officers are gearing up for what will surely be an incredibly busy holiday with huge crowds.

“Just going to the beach, getting some beer, hanging out,” beachgoer Halley Stover said of her Independence Day plans.

Beachgoer Greg Pepper echoed those thoughts, saying, “That’s all — just hang out, get some sun.”

The couple came to Jacksonville Beach from northern Virginia. News4JAX warned them that while it was quiet Thursday, in a few days, that won’t be the case.

People from all over will come to the beaches area on bikes, skateboards and really anything with wheels.

In Neptune Beach, the city of 7,200 will see thousands of visitors.

“We’ll have approximately 30 to 35 officers patrolling Neptune Beach,” said Cmdr. Mike Key, with the Neptune Beach Police Department. “They do that via bicycle patrol, via vehicles. I’ll put them out on four-wheelers and ATVs out on the beach, obviously on foot patrol, as well.

Key said other agencies like the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office help patrol and respond to emergencies. Officers are making most of First Street one big bicycle lane as people hop from house parties to beach tents.

“From Seagate Avenue to Cherry Street, all along the First Street corridor of Neptune Beach, we decide to completely shut the road to vehicle or traffic,” Key said.

“We have bicyclists that are going to be commuting — thousands of them,” Key continued. “We really want the safety of those bicyclists, the pedestrians, the skateboarders, everybody else to really be safe as they commute and enjoy their Fourth of July.”

In the water, red flags were flying Thursday and could continue to do so through the holiday. Rough waves, rip currents and high heat are all concerns for lifeguards who know it’s all hands on deck.

“Preparing for what is called the Super Bowl of lifeguarding,” said Lt. Max Ervanian, with Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue.

They’re preaching the basics.

“We want to remind beachgoers to never swim alone, always swim in front of a lifeguard and always stay hydrated. Even when it may not feel hot, the sun is out, you’re outside, you’re very prone to getting dehydrated,” Ervanian said.

Fireworks are scheduled to go off from the Jacksonville Beach Pier at 9 p.m. Monday.

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