A fire at a Jim Beam warehouse in Versailles, Kentucky, was in its third day of burning Thursday, as Kentucky officials began assessing the environmental impact the leaking bourbon was having on nearby waterways.
The warehouse caught fire Tuesday night and burned through Wednesday morning before a containment system was set up at the warehouse, John Mura, a spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, said. He said bourbon barrels were purposely being allowed to burn off on Thursday.
The move is meant to help prevent more runoff from polluting waterways and nearby sources of drinking water, Mura said.
“We’re starting to see fish kill, and we think that it’s very likely to get worse,” he said.
Mura added aeration devices are being installed in Glenns Creek and the Kentucky River to reduce the number of fish dying, and that his agency was taking daily water samples to monitor oxygen levels. Officials are also continuing to monitor the smoke in case the fire reignites.
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 collapsed.
The warehouse contained 45,000 barrels of “relatively young whiskey,” according to a statement from Beam Suntory, the parent company of Jim Beam.
No one was hurt in the fire, and the company thanked first responders who remain at the scene, said Dan Cohen, who is the spokesman for Jim Beam’s parent company Beam Suntory.
“We have a comprehensive warehouse safety program that includes regular inspections and rigorous protocols to promote safety and the security of our aging inventory,” Cohen said. “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 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,” spokeswoman Emily York said.
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.
The cause of the fire has not been determined.
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.