Firefighters are battling a massive blaze Wednesday at a Jim Beam warehouse filled with 45,000 barrels of bourbon, an effort they say could extend well into the evening.
Drew Chandler, the emergency management director for Woodford County, told local news station WKYT that lighting might have sparked the fire at one warehouse Tuesday night before spreading to a second storage facility. Crews managed to extinguish one, he said. But the other fire was proving more challenging; a second team was called in to bring in flame-retardant foam and a local business is hauling in sand to limit the runoff from flowing into a nearby creek.
A standard barrel contains about 53 gallons of bourbon, which is aged for years to achieve its desired color and flavor. The bourbon gives the flames ample material to burn, Chandler said. Generally, any alcohol that’s at least 80 proof - like most bourbon - is flammable.
Chandler told the Louisville Courier Journal that the fire was burning so hot he could feel the heat even standing as much as a football field away, or about 350 feet. The intense temperatures were keeping the crews from getting close enough, he said.
“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,” Jim Beam’s parent company, Beam Suntory, said in a statement. “We have a comprehensive warehouse safety program that includes regular inspections and rigorous protocols to promote safety and the security of our aging inventory.”
The company operates 126 barrel warehouses, which collectively hold 3.3 million barrels, in the state. The warehouse that was destroyed contained relatively young whiskey, Beam Suntory said, the loss of which will not impact availability.