Fla. Fires Affect Some Agencies

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Florida's fires are prompting some elderly clients with breathing problems to leave the state on their physicians' advice, agents reported.

"We've had a few seniors with respiratory problems come in, and they asked to get out as soon as possible," said Don Franchi, an owner of Atlas Travel in Daytona Beach. "They're going back up north a little earlier than they normally would. If you're a tourist coming down here in the summer, you expect heat or you shouldn't be coming."

He said some of his employees complained of breathing problems and were taking various medications. The smoke was generally worse in the early morning before afternoon winds whisked away some of it, he said.

Jacky Spavin, owner of Ormond Beach (Fla.) Travel, also reported some elderly residents are fleeing north.

But Jan Sosa, an agent with the Travel Connection of Central Florida in Orlando, said, "I have not had one person make a request to leave because of the smoke or the heat."

Agent Kathleen Lacy of New Horizon Travel in Daytona Beach said Daytona Beach's Firecracker 400 stock-car race on July 4 was attracting the usual large crowd and local hotels were sold-out.

Nancy Figueroa, manager of Coqui Tours & Travel in Daytona Beach, said business was better than usual. "I thought people might (not be here to patronize the agency), but that hasn't happened. In fact, business is up."

That was also the case in Jacksonville, up the coast.

"We're still selling packages between Disney World and Jacksonville, the opposite ends of the fires, and people are still traveling there by car," said Sam Hill of Always Open Travel in Jacksonville Beach.

Denise Ellis, an owner of Apopka (Fla.) Travel, northwest of Orlando, commented: "Honestly, if people wanted to go elsewhere to cool off, where would they go? Everyplace else is hot except for the North Pole."

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