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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 9, 1998

President Clinton Meets With Florida Fire Fighters

Daytona Speedway, Florida

July 9, 1998

Today, President Clinton will travel to Daytona, Florida, to meet with residents and fire fighters battling the wildfires in Florida. The President will then address fire fighters at the Daytona Speedway who are resting between shifts at the Daytona Speedway. He will be accompanied by Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, FEMA Director James Lee Witt, Governor Lawton Chiles, Representative Corrine Brown (D-FLA), Representative Peter Deutsch (D-FLA), Representative Allen Boyd (D-FLA), and Flagler County Chairman Jim Darby.

Since May 25, about 2,000 fires have consumed more than 481,719 acres in Florida. Fires have been reported in 67 counties. Numerous towns and districts have been forced to evacuate. At the height of the evacuations, approximately 112,000 people were affected. Residents in Flagler and Volusia counties were allowed to return to their homes on July 6, after officials determined it was safe.

There have been 104 injuries, mostly firefighters, but remarkably there have been no fatalities associated with the fires. More than 367 residences and 33 businesses have been damaged or destroyed. The American Red Cross (ARC) is reporting two shelters open, housing 200 people as of the morning of July 8. A total of 86 shelters have been opened since the beginning of the disaster, housing 7,040. The ARC has served 225,409 meals to affected residents and firefighting personnel. At one time, fires forced the closure of I-95 between Jacksonville and Brevard County and most highways in Flagler County. Economically, losses to the tourism industry are estimated in the tens of millions of dollars and agribusiness losses are estimated to exceed over $400 million.

The President granted Governor Chile's request for an emergency declaration on June 18. FEMA Director James Lee Witt visited these areas on July 3-4. The President will announce today that twenty-nine counties that originally received only public assistance will now be eligible for individual assistance. This is in addition to the five counties previously designated for both public and individual assistance. The President will also announce that the Labor Department has approved a grant of up to $1 million to Florida to create 200 temporary jobs to assist in cleanup and restoration in areas of the State affected by wildfires. Typical projects will include general cleanup, restoration of roads and providing humanitarian assistance at temporary shelters and food sites. Today, President Clinton will announce that the entire State will be approved for USDA Emergency loans that will help cover production and physical losses in counties. (Please see attached summary of the federal government's efforts as well as agency press releases).

Order of Speakers
Governor Lawton Chiles
Karen Perry (resident)
Randy Holmes (fire fighter)
President Clinton


As of July 9, 1998

Department of Agriculture

Currently, approximately 475,000 acres have been scorched by fires in the state of Florida since May, including about 155,000 acres of forest land valued at $185 million. Severe drought conditions in the central, northern, and Panhandle areas of the State have caused extensive damage to Florida's crop and livestock production.

The entire State is approved for USDA Emergency (EM) loans that help cover production and physical losses in counties declared as disaster areas by the President or Secretary of Agriculture. All counties in the State are eligible for EM loans due to fires. Emergency loans may be made to farmers and ranchers who have suffered a qualifying loss, or a production loss of at least thirty percent, and farmers and ranchers who have repayment ability but can not obtain commercial credit.

Over 5,000 personnel are assigned to the fires in Florida, including Federal, State, local, and volunteers. The crews and engines come from 47 states and include 180 20-person fire crews, 385 engines, 63 helicopters, 18 large air tankers, 3 single engine planes.

Department of Labor

The Labor Department is approving a grant of up to of $1,000,000 to Florida to create 200 temporary jobs to assist in cleanup and restoration in areas in the State affected by wildfires. Typical projects will include general cleanup, restoration of roads and docks, and providing humanitarian assistance at temporary shelters and food sites.

Federal Emergency Management Agency

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is extending individual assistance to 29 counties bringing the total of counties receiving individual and public assistance to 34. This assistance will provide temporary housing and crisis counseling, repair of homes, and replacing essential items. Also, the Federal Response Plan is coordinating disaster response by activating Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) that provide federal resources and equipment to meet the immediate needs of firefighters and disaster victims. To date, FEMA has provided more than $57 million in federal support for firefighting operations.

Department of Defense

Using its special airlift capabilities, the Department of Defense continues to provide significant support to Florida state authorities in their effort to contain wildfires. Between July 3-6, DoD air mobility assets flew 17 missions to airlift 258 civilian firefighters and civilian firefighting equipment, including 74 fire trucks, from CA, OR, and SD. The National Guard is currently helping to fight the fire by providing approximately 1,290 Army and 30 Air National Guard personnel, and 10 helicopters. In addition, the active duty component is providing a 12-man Defense Coordinating Element to coordinate overall military support, and 57 soldiers and 25 civilian personnel to operate DoD equipment engaged in fire fighting missions.

Department of Commerce

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has positioned a team of specially-trained meteorologists in Florida to provide on-site microscale weather forecasts for fire fighters. The National Weather Service (NWS) has dispatched more than 16 incident meteorologists to nine wildfire complexes in Florida for 42 missions.

Department of Transportation

As the lead agency for transportation issues and resources during disasters, DOT is working in concert with the Florida Department of Transportation, the Defense Coordinating Officer, General Services Administration and the U.S. Forest Service to ensure the movement of personnel and equipment into fire locations and mobilization sites.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) temporarily closed its Center for Management Development, a training facility located in Palm Coast, in order to provide badly needed quarters for firefighters. This facility has resident housing accommodations for some 130 firefighters. FAA training classes have been temporarily canceled in support of the fire fighting effort.

The FAA is also assisting the U.S. Forest Service and State firefighters in setting up three temporary Air Traffic Control facilities.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

HUD will work closely with Florida Governor Lawton Chiles and state officials to ensure that the Department's programs are fully utilized in the state's disaster recovery effort. HUD assistance can be used to restore, rebuild and replace homes and businesses; to repair and rebuild public buildings and facilities; and to pay for increased costs of providing public services.

Department of Health and Human Services

Florida has been pre-approved for a small disaster grant for $20,000 by the Administration on Aging.

SBA Disaster Loan Program

SBA's disaster loans are the primary form of federal assistance for nonfarm, private sector disaster losses. The Small Business Act authorizes SBA to make disaster loans from SBA help homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and nonprofit organizations rebuild after a disaster. As of Monday, July 6, SBA had issued 788 loan applications to homeowners and business owners.

Environmental Protection Agency

EPA is monitoring air pollution at over fifty locations throughout the State of Florida. The EPA's Region 4 offices have offered assistance in deploying additional air pollution monitors, however, the state has refused this additional aid as they believe the state monitors are sufficient. The State of Florida will not be penalized under the Clean Air Act for air quality problems caused by this wildfire disaster.


There are 77 AmeriCorps members serving with FEMA and the American Red Cross in Volusia and Flagler Counties and in Tallahassee. The AmeriCorps members in Florida are working to contain the fires, conduct "mop up" activities, such as clearing away debris, and are conducting a variety of activities at incident command posts.

                         COMMITTED FIRE RESOURCES

                            As of July 7, 1998


          Air Attack                                    19
          Air Tankers                                   18
          Helicopters                                   63
          Infrared Flight                               23
          Observation Plane                             11
          Single Engine Air Tanker                       3

Ground Equipment

          Equipment Vans                                 6
          Caterer Vans                                   2
          Bull Dozers                                    8
          Fire Engines                                 376
          Engine Strike Teams (one or more trucks)       9
          Fuel Tankers                                   1
          Microwave Communications Systems               3
          Miscellaneous                                 19
          Mobile Weather Units                           3
          Radio Kits                                    99
          Tractors/Plows                                53
          Water Tankers                                 13

Florida Fire, Federal Personnel Assigned to Suppression Efforts

As of 9 a.m., July 8, 1998

Agency                                         # Personnel
FEMA                                                  106
Dept. Of Transportation                                 1
National Communications Service                         2
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers                           13
U.S. Forest Service                                 3,147
other State Agency Firefighting Personnel             593
Voluntary Agencies                                    228
General Services Administration                         2
Public Health Service                                   2
Environmental Protection Agency                         0
Department of Agriculture                         Unknown
Housing and Urban Development                           0
Small Business Administration                     Unknown
DoD                                                   114
Army National Guard                                 1,515
Air National Guard                                     57

TOTAL 5,780