Mike Stunson and Ryan Hermens
Crews worked overnight on a massive fire at a Jim Beam bourbon warehouse facility in Woodford County.
The fire at the Jim Beam aging warehouse began around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and spread to a neighboring warehouse, according to Drew Chandler, the Woodford County Emergency Management director.
About 40,000 barrels of bourbon were in each warehouse. Around 75 firefighters from fire departments from Woodford and Franklin counties and the cities of Lexington, Winchester and Versailles were at the site Wednesday, Chandler said.
The report of the second fire turned out to be an exposure and firefighters were able to contain it to the exterior of the warehouse, Chandler said. The fire has continued to burn in the warehouse. Firefighters could remain on scene for “double-digit hours.,” Chandler said about 7 a.m.
“There is a lot of material left to burn and not enough water to deal with that kind of heat,” he said. “The fire is still too hot to get any investigator in. We heard there was lightning in the area but we have no way of confirming that. “
The National Weather Service confirmed Wednesday morning there were rain showers in the vicinity of the incident and “a few” lightning strikes were recorded along the Franklin and Woodford county lines.
Members of the state’s Department for Environmental Protection were on scene Wednesday, as well as representatives from the American Red Cross
The Bluegrass Emergency Response Team out of Lexington delivered foam to fight the fire, WKYT reported, and Woodford Feed delivered sand to build embankments to prevent leakage into nearby creeks, Chandler said. Firefighters requested the sand to prevent runoff to Glenns Creek, Chandler added.
Preliminary sampling has been done to determine if the creek has been contaminated.
When a Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown collapsed last year, many barrels spilled into a small tributary of the Beech Fork River. Approximately 800 fish were killed as a result of the bourbon flowing into the stream.
Chandler said the most similar fire he knows of is from 2000, when a fire destroyed a bourbon warehouse at the Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg. A seven-story rickhouse and thousands of barrels were reduced to rubble. Bourbon running off the bluff contaminated the Kentucky River, which supplied water to the city. The drinking water system was shut down and there was a massive fish kill along a 66-mile stretch of the river.
No injuries have been reported from the Jim Beam fire.
It’s not clear Jim Bean product is inside the warehouses.
“It’s always unfortunate to see commerce affected like this,” Chandler said. “Hopefully that won’t lead to a loss of jobs at this facility. Certainly It will prompt some jobs for other professions with the cleanup and rebuilding if the company chooses to do that.”
McCracken Pike, which also houses Castle & Key and Glenns Creek Distilling, has been shut down Wednesday morning.
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