Watch CBS News

SF Fire Officials Confront Growing Number of Cliff Rescue Calls

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- San Francisco Fire Department officials are working to curb cliff rescues which have occasionally proven deadly.

In 2016, there were 22 cliff rescues in San Francisco, according to fire department records. In 2017, there were 41; 30 in 2018 and there have been 6 so far this year.

Most rescues happen because somebody disregarded warning signs or went over barricades to climb down the cliffs to the beaches, said Lt. Jonathan Baxter, San Francisco Fire Dept. spokesman.

"A lot of people are saying, 'well, I was enjoying the scenery, I saw the wall, it didn't look hazardous so I went over the wall and I got to a point where I realized I can't get back,' and that's where 911 gets involved," said Baxter.

But sometimes people obey all the rules and can still face fatal consequences.

Kyra Sunshine Scarlet and a friend were walking along the beach at Fort Funston when a 75-foot wall of earth crashed down on top of them. The recovery effort lasted days, but Kyra's body was never found. Her body may have been carried out to sea. Her friend survived.

Officials said educating the public is key to reducing the numbers. They have put up even more warning signs. The fire department is also doing a major social media push, spreading the word about the dangers of cliffs.

Baxter said Facebook and Twitter posts are going up across California as it turns out most cliff victims are not from the Bay Area.

The fire department has specialized rescue teams that put themselves at risk to help save others. On nice days they can end up conducting more than one rescue per day.

Weather may be the biggest factor of all.

"It's getting hotter in San Francisco and with that you're going to get more people coming to the beach," Baxter said. "You're going to get more people walking on our coastal trails. You have more people -- that increases the likelihood that we're going to have more incidents that could relatively relate to a rescue."

San Francisco Fire commissioner Joe Alioto Veronese recently suggested putting together a task force for cliff rescues. That idea is waiting for approval by the mayor.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.