Two Jim Beam bourbon warehouses catch on fire in Woodford County

Updated: Jul. 3, 2019 at 1:48 PM CDT
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WOODFORD COUNTY, Ky. (WAVE) – A warehouse filled with bourbon is continuing to burn after catching on fire Tuesday night.

Two barrel warehouses caught on fire at the Jim Beam aging facility, located on McCracken Pike near the Franklin County line, around 11:30 p.m., Woodford County Emergency Management director Drew Chandler said.

Five departments from four counties - Woodford, Versailles, Franklin County, Lexington and Winchester - responded to the fire.

Chandler said the fire started in one warehouse and moved to a second warehouse.

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Firefighters put the flames out in one of the warehouses. But the fire in the other warehouse was being controlled to allow the distilled spirits to burn off. Chandler said if they were to put out the flames, then contamination runoff would go into the Kentucky River tributary.

Woodford Feed donated sand to help prevent runoff from going into a creek.

No injuries have been reported.

There was no immediate response to questions about the age of the warehouses and the presence of sprinkler systems.

Revisions to the state building code in 2010 imposed new regulations on the industry. Newly constructed warehouses are to be equipped with sprinkler systems if they are larger than 20,000 square feet.

“Every warehouse that’s being built today is probably safer than the last one because we still continue to improve upon construction techniques," Eric Gregory, Kentucky Distillers’ Association President, said.

Chandler said he expects crews will be at the scene of the fire throughout Wednesday night.

Beam Suntory, Jim Beam’s parent company, released the following statement about the fire:

"We are thankful that no one was injured in this incident, and we are grateful to the courageous firefighters from multiple jurisdictions who brought the fire under control and prevented it from spreading. Initial reports suggest the fire resulted from a lightning strike, and we will work with local authorities to confirm the cause and to remediate the impacts.

We have a comprehensive warehouse safety program that includes regular inspections and rigorous protocols to promote safety and the security of our aging inventory. We operate 126 barrel warehouses in Kentucky that hold approximately 3.3 million barrels for our brands, and the warehouse that was destroyed contained 45,000 barrels of relatively young whiskey from the Jim Beam mash bill. Given the age of the lost whiskey, this fire will not impact the availability of Jim Beam for consumers.

We appreciate the support of our neighbors and the Kentucky Bourbon community as we manage through this incident."

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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