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Massive fire at Jim Beam facility may have destroyed 45,000 barrels of bourbon

Posted at 8:30 AM, Jul 03, 2019

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WOODFORD COUNTY, Ky. — A Jim Beam warehouse caught fire late Tuesday and firefighters struggled to contain the massive blaze, partly because of alcohol in the debris.

The warehouse, in Versailles, Kentucky, caught fire around 11:30 p.m. Police Lt. Michael Fortney said a security guard called to report the fire.

Forty firefighters from five counties helped battle the blaze. A second warehouse also caught fire, but that blaze was controlled.

The warehouse where the fire started has collapsed. It held approximately 40,000 barrels of spirits. CNN reached out to Beam Suntory, the parent company of Jim Beam, for comment but has not received a response.

Woodford County Emergency Management chief Drew Chandler said the warehouses are massive — about the same area as a football field and six or seven stories high.

Fortney said there was lightning in the area Tuesday night and it’s possible that it could have sparked the flames. Chandler said the fire had been way too big and hot to get a fire investigator near it. Even as the sun rose Wednesday, the blaze was still roaring.

“It’s purposefully being allowed to burn for several more hours,” Chandler said. “The more it burns, the less distilled spirits are in the debris.”

That will also help ensure any runoff from the firefighting efforts don’t pollute nearby sources of drinking water.

In 2018, about 18,000 barrels of bourbon were lost when a warehouse in Bardstown, Kentucky, collapsed during building work. The bourbon run off killed about 1,000 fish in nearby waterways.