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Number of rescues at McAfee Knob increasing at alarming rate

Shayne Dwyer/WDBJ7
Shayne Dwyer/WDBJ7(WDBJ)
Published: Apr. 27, 2017 at 5:10 PM EDT
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There's a growing problem at a Roanoke Valley hot spot. More people are needing rescue while hiking to McAfee Knob.

Recently, it happened twice on the same day.

The Appalachian Trail is not world-famous for off-roading, but for its serenity and being a great place to eat lunch. The buggy only shows up when Roanoke County Fire and Rescue is at work.

"That's as important as the car wrecks and the sick people, we are here to help," Roanoke County Fire and Rescue Captain Chad Wheeler said.

Helping inspect, clear trees and smooth rugged terrain along the Fire Road is the lifeline to hikers in distress.

"Maintaining this fire road is going to make a huge difference because we're going to be able to get in and out much quicker," Wheeler said.

Getting out on the trail is about more than just getting out of the firehouse, these improvements need to be made because calls for rescue are happening way more often.

"We are on the trail more often more often than fighting structure fires. Most definitely over the last five years and the call volume has increased greatly every year," Wheeler said.

During peak season, that reality ties up crews for hours. Thirty-eight rescues were made in 2016. Twelve rescues have already been made this year.

"Most of them are BLS, minor injuries, and obviously the lost calls, I'm lost," Wheeler said.

Word has gotten out more people are coming here. The best thing they can do to help is help themselves.

"We want folks to look at the trail they're planning on hiking, know how far it is, know how difficult it is. It is just about taking a few minutes to prepare ahead of time before you come out on the hike," Roanoke County Fire And Rescue Spokeswoman Jennifer Sexton said.