Montgomery Co. officials conduct water rescue training, attempt to discourage swimming in Great Falls area of Potomac

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WJLA) - At the Great Falls of the Potomac, the water appears tranquil and peaceful - but looks, though picturesque, can be deceiving.

Last year there were four drownings in Montgomery County on the Potomac. County fire and rescue officials say they average about 30 water rescues per year.

"What you can't see is the currents underneath the surface - you don't know what's under there, that will pull you under and get you in trouble very quickly," said Chief Steve Lohr.

For that reason, the department was out on the Potomac Tuesday, doing water rescue training with staff and informing would-be swimmers that swimming in the Great Falls area is not allowed.

"Some of the other portions of the river, where there are a lot of rocks that create undertows, eddies, whirlpools - things that even trained athletes can't overcome," Lohr explained.

Just days into the summer season, the department has already had six water rescues on the river, Lohr said.

Captain Eddie Russell and his co-workers remember each drowning and rescue like the back of their hand, they said.

Just last Friday, they helped a competitive kayaker that was trapped out on the water - proving that it doesn't matter how experienced you are.

In most parts of the Potomac, the waters are pretty calm, but it's a much different story in the Rocky Islands area - and it wouldn't take much for someone to get swept downstream.

With each conversation they had with would-be swimmers Tuesday, they hoped they would have one less memory engrained into their minds of a tragedy that could have been prevented, they said.

"If someone gets in trouble, in some ways, we've failed our mission already - because we haven't prevented the 911 call," Lohr said.