A Jim Beam warehouse went up in flames in Versailles, Kentucky, Tuesday night, and by Wednesday it was "a burning pile of rubble," with thousands of gallons of bourbon runoff spilling into nearby waterways and "a strong scent of bourbon ... in the air," per the Courier-Journal. At this point, firefighters are spraying water only on the buildings next to the burning warehouse, in order to contain the fire, a spokesperson for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said. "Putting water on the fire would just increase the runoff," he explains. "This fire is so hot that we think the best thing to do is let it consume all of the bourbon rather than having more of it go into the stream." Officials anticipate the runoff will kill a "significant" number of fish in the Kentucky River and Glenns Creek, but WKYT reports there are no current concerns regarding drinking water.
The cause of the blaze has not been confirmed, but according to Beam Suntory, the Chicago-based spirits company that owns Jim Beam, initial reports indicate a lightning strike started it; rain and lightning were reported in the area Tuesday night. The intense heat from the burning liquor made fighting the fire a challenge on a day when temperatures are already in the mid-to-upper 80s, officials say; the heat even melted the windows of a nearby house. The fire did spread to a second warehouse, but flames were able to be put out in the second building. The burning warehouse contained 45,000 bourbon barrels; a standard barrel typically holds about 53 gallons of bourbon. In a separate piece, the Courier-Journal offers a eulogy to the 6 million bottles of bourbon that may have been lost. (Read more Jim Beam stories.)