Rescuers have pulled off 18 saves in the past ten days as an epidemic of injured or stranded hikers on the famed A section of the Billy Goat Trail near Great Falls has unfolded in the heat.
"People are unprepared for the trail and its hot out," said Master Firefighter David DeVore of the Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service.
DeVore and dozens of other rescuers responded to two calls for help on July 4th. A 32-year old woman suspected of breaking her ankle was carried to the C and O Canal Tow Path for evacuation from section B of the Billy Goat Trail.
PHOTOS: Several rescued from Billy Goat Trail
A man suffering from the early stages of heat exhaustion was in such a remote area in Section A that rescuers sent boats to pick him up at the base of cliffs near the Great Falls.
The Potomac River which is accessed by the trail is deadly. The area averages two to three deaths annually.
Swimming in the river and alcohol use are prohibited in the area which is part of the Great Falls section of the C and O Canal Historic Park,
Rescuers urge summer hikers to carry lots of water, wear sturdy hiking shoes and carry a charged cell phone when using the Billy Goat Trail.
Rescuers say they frequently encounter victims who have ventured onto the trail in flip-flops without any idea that the ruggedness of the trail rivals some short hikes in the Grand Canyon or Yosemite.
"Folks tend to underestimate how strenuous it really is," DeVore said, noting how close the natural wonders of Great Falls are to Washington.