Daytona Speedway Haven for Firefighters

Speedway not just a haven for race fans Brett Borden DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 6, 1998) Daytona International Speedway has been a haven for race fans for years. This Fourth of July weekend, it served that role for an entire community. ...

Speedway not just a haven for race fans Brett Borden

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 6, 1998) Daytona International Speedway has been a haven for race fans for years. This Fourth of July weekend, it served that role for an entire community.

Plagued by "wildfires," out-of-control brush fires spawned by unusually dry conditions, for the last several weeks, the Daytona Beach area had reached the point where evacuation of several neighborhoods and even an entire county became necessary for safety reasons. With thousands of residents, firefighters and national guardsmen needing shelter and basic necessities, International Speedway Corporation (ISC) stepped in and opened its doors.

DIS firefighters and supplies were sent to help local fire departments contain the fires. Firefighters and supplies from Talladega Superspeedway, Darlington Raceway and Watkins Glen International (all owned by ISC) were brought in to provide support. Americrown Service Corporation, ISC's wholly-owned catering company, delivered thousands of bottles of water and meals to the American Red Cross staff as well as the firefighters and National Guard troops.

DIS converted its luxury "Daytona Club" tent into a lodging and staging area for the firefighters and troops. It also transformed its Americrown building in the former General Electric industrial complex into a shelter for evacuees replete with 250 beds, meals, showers and even television sets. Other local businesses followed the speedway's lead and pitched in with other supplies.

"I've always loved this community," said John Graham, president of DIS, "and now I'm even prouder to be a part of it. Although conditions have been very negative, people have been very positive. Everyone is pulling together, individuals and businesses alike. If there's a silver lining to this tragedy it's in being reminded that we live in a great community of wonderful people who are unselfishly helping those in need."

Monday the Speedway was still housing nearly 70 residents displaced from their homes, 300 out-of-town firefighters and 70 National Guard troops.

The National Guard is using the speedway -- which sits on 480 acres -- as a command post and a distribution center for its efforts in fighting the fires and protecting the local area. More than 200 troops will eventually become part of a "logistics support area" located on speedway property.

"There are two things that make the speedway an ideal location for this type of operation," said Eric Gentry of Emergency Management for the State of Florida. "First, we have a myriad of needs and it's terrific to have a facility that can meet all those needs in one location. Secondly, everyone knows where the speedway is, so logistically, it's great to have it as a central location."

Added Lt. Colonel John Moors of the Florida Army National Guard, "It's rare to have a facility offered to us that is as spacious and nice as this one. It's a real plus. We're used to working out in the field. This was supposed to be a weekend for celebration, to allow citizens a day of relief. But Mother Nature took over. But we know we have the ability to help, and our ability is being greatly enhanced by Daytona International Speedway."

The speedway itself, and a myriad of supplies, became available when the July 4 Pepsi 400 was postponed until Oct. 17. The event was rescheduled when shifting conditions forced a multitude of road closings and residential evacuations beginning last Wednesday -- only one day before practice was scheduled to begin for the 17th event of the season.

Source: NASCAR Online

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Graham