Jim Beam Warehouse Fire

Kentucky site containing over 40,000 barrels of bourbon destroyed

A Kentucky warehouse operated by bourbon maker Jim Beam was set ablaze July 2, combusting around 45,000 barrels of spirits and ultimately collapsing around 11:30 PM.

The Beam complex included two warehouses, the second of which also caught fire but was contained by the adept response of around 40 firefighters from the Versailles, Kentucky area where it is located.

The alcoholic contents of the warehouse were confirmed as an accelerant by Versailles Police Lt. Michael Forney in a statement to the press, but identifying a cause for the initial spark is still under investigation as of Monday. Early signs point to a lightning strike, according to a statement from Beam spokesperson Dan Cohen:

“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 that 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.”

Versailles is a small town in north-central Kentucky with a population of over 8,000 people. It lies 13 miles west of Lexington and 16 miles south of Frankfort, the state capital. Additionally troubling are the ripple effects of the fire, such as its environmental impact on the Kentucky River. Hundreds—perhaps thousands—of dead fish began to surface in the river over the holiday weekend, victims of polluted alcohol runoff from the fire last week.

Sightings of these dead fish continued into Monday, worrying environmentalists and animal rights activists about the overall effects on the local ecosystem. The Kentucky River also flows into the larger Ohio River at the Indiana-Kentucky border 60 miles north of the site of the fire. Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet officials say the alcohol is leading to extremely low oxygen levels in the water, causing the fish to perish.

An update was provided by ABC News Wednesday, as the outlet reported the company will be fined for the environmental and wildlife impact.

Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet spokesman John Mura said that there will be a penalty. He says the state Department of Fish & Wildlife may also fine the company. The cost of the fines was unclear as of Wednesday.

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