President Clinton Visits Daytona Speedway

President Clinton Visits Firefighters, Troops at Daytona DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- President Bill Clinton spoke Thursday at Daytona International Speedway personally delivering a "thank you" to many of the firefighters and other support ...

President Clinton Visits Daytona Speedway

President Clinton Visits Firefighters, Troops at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- President Bill Clinton spoke Thursday at Daytona International Speedway personally delivering a "thank you" to many of the firefighters and other support personnel who have been waging war against wildfires sweeping across East Central Florida.

Clinton addressed more than 750 firefighters, Forestry Service personnel and National Guardsmen in a hospitality tent that was initially designed to serve hundreds of race fans at the Pepsi 400 originally scheduled for July 4. Due to the fiery conditions in Volusia County, the race was postponed until Oct. 17.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank Bill France for making his Speedway headquarters for the firefighters," said Clinton. "They (Daytona International Speedway) had to postpone their race, but they're helping to run an even more important race, this race is being run house-by-house, family-by-family. But, I hope all of the people will come back to Daytona Beach to support the race in October.

"People from all over the country have been calling the White House asking what they can do to help the people in Florida. I can tell them what to do, they can take a vacation and give this community an economic boost."

"Finally, I would like to thank all of the firefighters that have battled these fires with little rest. I can tell you the real heroes aren't in space fighting asteroids (referring to this summer's top movies), they're in Florida fighting fires."

Florida Governor Lawton Chiles joined the President Thursday and on behalf of all of the citizens of the State of Florida expressed his gratitude toward the out-of-state firefighters that have meant so much to the containment of the wildfires.

For several days, the Speedway and its facilities have served as a safe haven for evacuees who were forced from their homes as wildfires continue to threaten Central Florida. Nearby, a Speedway-owned building, which has been transformed into a shelter complete with showers, private rooms, hot meals and television sets, served as a comfortable refuge for more than 150 civilian evacuees.

Additionally, hundreds of firefighters from across the country and National Guardsmen are calling the world-famous facility home. More than 300 firefighters, including men and women from North and South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee, have used the Speedway for accommodations. More than 50,000 meals have been served to firefighters either at the Speedway or in the field over the last two weeks.

The Speedway is also serving as a "logistics support area" for the National Guard. The Speedway's central location and structural diversity is proving to be ideal in meeting the Guard's wide array of needs. More than 70 soldiers and various military equipment from Camp Blanding in Starke, Fla., have moved onto the Speedway's 480-acre complex under the direction of Major General Ronald O. Harrison. -- 30 --

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