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Fire at Ky. Whiskey Warehouse Rages On

August 6, 2003

BARDSTOWN, Ky. (AP) _ The smell of burning whiskey lingered in the air Tuesday as the remnants of a fire that destroyed a warehouse that had held 800,000 gallons of Jim Beam bourbon continued to burn.

The fire was contained, but was expected to burn until at least Thursday. ``There’s a lot of lumber in there,″ Fire Chief Anthony Mattingly said.

Emergency officials said a small amount of bourbon found its way into a creek that runs near the charred warehouse, but the environmental effects were expected to be minimal.

About 90 minutes after firefighters arrived Monday, bulldozers were brought in to dam the creek, halting the downstream flow of bourbon, officials said.

``We got some (bourbon) in the river, I’m sure,″ said Joe Osborne, the director of emergency management for Nelson County. ``We think it’s very minimal, but we’ll have to wait and see.″

Agents from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms checked Tuesday for any environmental damage from the fire.

The company said Tuesday that ``all initial indications suggest″ the fire was caused by lightning. Thunderstorms swept through the area Monday afternoon.

The wooden warehouse, built in 1945, contained 19,000 barrels of aging bourbon. The warehouse is one of four at the site and among 64 owned by Jim Beam. It is one of the company’s older warehouses, said Jeff Conder, a plant manager for Jim Beam.

All four warehouses at the site had lightning rods and metal roofs _ a change from the original tar roofs many had when first built, Conder said.

None of the other three warehouses at the site was significantly damaged, and the company said the fire destroyed about 2 percent of its aging bourbon inventory.

Conder said the amount of bourbon lost represented less than two weeks worth of production and that the company was fully insured.

The fire was the third in the last seven years at a bourbon warehouse in Kentucky, where more than 95 percent of the world’s bourbon is produced.

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