What once was a Jim Beam warehouse in Woodford County is now a fiery pile of rubble.
A fire that started on Tuesday night inside a warehouse containing 45,000 barrels of bourbon continues to burn 58 hours after it started.
After trying to put out the blaze throughout Tuesday night into Wednesday afternoon, the Woodford County Fire Department is going to wait to extinguish the fire for a day or two “because of the environmental consideration,” said Drew Chandler, Woodford County Emergency Management director.
“There is less environmental impact to allowing the ethanol to continue to burn,” he said. “That’s really all that’s left.”
Here is what you need to know about the incident and its consequences:
When did the Jim Beam warehouse catch fire?
Firefighters responded to a call from a Jim Beam security guard Tuesday night regarding a fire at once of the facility’s warehouses. According to authorities, the fire began around 11:30 p.m.
What caused the bourbon fire?
Beam Suntory, the Chicago-based spirits company that owns Jim Beam, said Wednesday that initial reports indicated “the fire resulted from a lightning strike.”
The National Weather Service in Louisville said rain and lightning were reported in the area late Tuesday.
More: 45,000 barrels of Jim Beam bourbon turned into a burning pile of rubble after a warehouse caught on fire
How hot was the fire?
Authorities responding to the fire said that the heat was intense.
“I was standing 100 yards away (from the warehouse), and it’s hot,” said Drew Chandler, Woodford County Emergency Management director. “(Crews) can’t get close enough.”
Was anybody injured?
Authorities say there were no injuries as a result of the incident. However, some nearby property was damaged.
Gary Tate, who has lived on a farm across the street with his wife, Linda, for about 20 years, told the Courier Journal that the flames from the fire melted the front side of their home and “peeled it just like a banana.”
How many gallons are in a bourbon barrel?
A standard bourbon barrel typically contains around 53 gallons of Kentucky’s signature spirit. That fills up 150 to 200 750-milliliter bottles.
The warehouse contained 45,000 barrels of bourbon, so that’s around 6.75 million bottles.
While it is unclear how many of the barrels were affected by the fire, some were definitely damaged, as bourbon runoff spilled into the nearby Kentucky River and Glenns Creek.
Bourbon spilled into the Kentucky River. Was there any damage to the environment?
Some of the wildlife has been affected. There have been initial reports of fish deaths, and the number is expected to increase over time, said to John Mura, a spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.
Beam Suntory said it placed aerators into Glenns Creek and will place more into the Kentucky River. Mura noted that this move will help “oxygenate the water” and potentially keep more fish alive.
Will this affect drinking water from the Kentucky River?
It should not, according to the Frankfort Plant Board, the city’s electric utility company that treats water from the Kentucky River.
Though customers might detect a “sweet or bourbon odor” in the water, the company said that it has determined that the Kentucky River can “still provide treatable water for drinking” after the fire at the nearby Jim Beam warehouse.
Why are firefighters letting the fire continue?
Mura said the state had advised firefighters not to spray water on the fire because it would increase the runoff. Crews were using sand to try to prevent more runoff from going into the streams.
Chandler said there is “less environmental impact to allowing the ethanol to continue to burn.” He said that the ethanol is “really all that’s left.”
When will the fire actually go out?
The Woodford County Fire Department is deliberating when to extinguish the fire. Chandler told the Courier Journal on Thursday that the fire would burn for “another day or two.”