Ohio

Heaven Hill Distillery burns in devastating fire

Well, I can remember this all very vividly. I was here on that day and it was about 80 degrees, you know, which is kind of unusual for that time of year. It was *** gloomy, dark cloudy wind swept day. We’re talking about some severe weather coming in that late that afternoon on November 7th, 1996 disaster strikes at Heaven Hills, massive warehouses, winds clock at 70 MPH. They was probably around 01 40 in the afternoon. Remember seeing the clock stop when the power went off. I was down at the old dis in, in the office and then I heard somebody say the warehouse is on fire up here on the hill. So I stepped out of the office, ran out of the office knocked up and I could see flames shooting out of the window. Parker and distillery supervisor Charlie downs drive up the hill to investigate and what they see immediately triggers *** full scale evacuation. Just sit back and watch it unfold and just kind of felt helpless. You know, it just didn’t take very long to see the first warehouse engulfed in flames. No, Halloween Fright could ever equal, this real life nightmare. Family members and neighbors struggled to save what they could. Firefighters are dwarfed by the wall of flames, fire and rain too much of one and not enough of the other throw in wind and thousands of barrels of bourbon. And there’s little anyone can do. I have never seen anything this big. I’ve never seen anything like that. So, they’re evacuating you all. Now, the valuables and antiques are moved out before the fire can move in. Oh my. You wouldn’t believe it. It was *** fireball. You could, you could feel the heat from up here from of those major wars. It was ***, it was awful heaven hills. Bourbon is stored across dozens of warehouses. One by one flames begin to swallow them. It’s kind of like *** domino effect. And when the first one collapsed, all the burning alcohol went down the hill and surrounded other warehouses and, and of course that the stereo was all at the bottom. Weather conditions couldn’t have been any worse. The rain kept coming down and the wind acted like *** blowtorch. You saw pieces of roofs being lifted into the air and blown 300 ft. The flaming alcohol creates *** river of burning bourbon. Then it happens, supports holding back thousands of gallons of whiskey. Give way the wall of fire becomes *** river of fire. And when we saw the, the wrecks, they call ricks collapse and the whiskey start to pour over the hill and once it went and ran across the highway, we, we knew it was gonna go. More barrels explode, more whiskey flows into the 18 inch deep river heading downhill, spilling into the highway as *** rages the main production plant, all anyone can do is watch, wait and wonder what this fire means for heaven help. And the small community that’s made *** way of life from the bourbon burning in its warehouses. Firefighters aren’t sure how it all started or for that matter when it will all stop finally, around seven hours after it started *** sudden change of wind helps calm the fire. It stoked what remains is devastation. This is what it looks like from the sky today. Black patches where warehouses once stood closer. You can see flowing creeks of bourbon skeletons of cars melted mailboxes from nearby homes left untouched by the fire. The flames are still going and the heat is still so intense. It has turned pieces of metal, bright orange. They found debris. Uh two and three and four miles from here all over town today as the shock wears off. And the reality of the blaze sets in those who call this community home begin to cope with what’s happened. The fire wiped out 15% of Heaven Hills storage capacity. The loss of bourbon and warehouses totals *** whopping $30 million.

This Day in History: Heaven Hill Distillery burns in devastating fire

On this day in 1996, one of the country’s worst-ever distillery fires began. At the Heaven Hill warehouses in Bardstown, Kentucky, a fire started in the afternoon on Nov. 7 that eventually destroyed nearly 100,000 barrels of bourbon. A storm was brewing in the afternoon, with winds clocking in at 70 mph. The fire began in one of the dozens of wooden warehouses that stored thousands of barrels of aging bourbon. Once it had started, the fire became almost impossible to stop.The fire jumped between warehouses, incinerating the wooden holds fed by their extremely flammable contents. Hundreds of firefighters rushed to the scene to be met with walls of flames 20 stories high, which quickly gave way to an 18-inch deep river of burning bourbon. The weather conditions seemed just to enrage the fire, with the wind acting as a blowtorch. The responders eventually gave up trying to put out the fire and focussed instead on preventing other warehouses from succumbing to the flames. Several hours after it began, a change in weather calmed the flames, and the damage could finally be seen. Witnesses compared it to a war zone, with skeletons of cars abandoned on the road, mailboxes from nearby homes melted by the heat, and still-flowing creeks of bourbon. Debris from the fire was found all around town, up to four miles away from the scene. Miraculously, no one was hurt or killed. Investigators were unable to confirm the cause of the fire, given the lengths of devastation, but some believe it was a lightning strike or faulty electrical wiring that caused the blaze.Seven warehouses holding millions of gallons of whiskey were destroyed, as well as the distillery itself. That added up to 2% of the world’s whiskey and 15% of Heaven Hill’s storage capacity. In total, the value of the losses totaled around $30 million. Heaven Hill recovered from the event and, over the years, has grown its place within Kentucky’s bourbon industry. This clip is an excerpt from an upcoming documentary, Bourbon Blaze: The Night That Tested America’s Spirit, which airs on Very Local in early 2024. Visit the Very Local app to learn more, stream local news, and explore more original series. Keep connected to your hometown with the news team you trust and discover original series and specials that explore your community and beyond.Follow Very Local on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for more.

On this day in 1996, one of the country’s worst-ever distillery fires began. At the Heaven Hill warehouses in Bardstown, Kentucky, a fire started in the afternoon on Nov. 7 that eventually destroyed nearly 100,000 barrels of bourbon.

A storm was brewing in the afternoon, with winds clocking in at 70 mph. The fire began in one of the dozens of wooden warehouses that stored thousands of barrels of aging bourbon. Once it had started, the fire became almost impossible to stop.

The fire jumped between warehouses, incinerating the wooden holds fed by their extremely flammable contents. Hundreds of firefighters rushed to the scene to be met with walls of flames 20 stories high, which quickly gave way to an 18-inch deep river of burning bourbon. The weather conditions seemed just to enrage the fire, with the wind acting as a blowtorch. The responders eventually gave up trying to put out the fire and focussed instead on preventing other warehouses from succumbing to the flames.

Several hours after it began, a change in weather calmed the flames, and the damage could finally be seen. Witnesses compared it to a war zone, with skeletons of cars abandoned on the road, mailboxes from nearby homes melted by the heat, and still-flowing creeks of bourbon. Debris from the fire was found all around town, up to four miles away from the scene.

Miraculously, no one was hurt or killed. Investigators were unable to confirm the cause of the fire, given the lengths of devastation, but some believe it was a lightning strike or faulty electrical wiring that caused the blaze.

Seven warehouses holding millions of gallons of whiskey were destroyed, as well as the distillery itself. That added up to 2% of the world’s whiskey and 15% of Heaven Hill’s storage capacity. In total, the value of the losses totaled around $30 million.

Heaven Hill recovered from the event and, over the years, has grown its place within Kentucky’s bourbon industry.


This clip is an excerpt from an upcoming documentary, Bourbon Blaze: The Night That Tested America’s Spirit, which airs on Very Local in early 2024. Visit the Very Local app to learn more, stream local news, and explore more original series. Keep connected to your hometown with the news team you trust and discover original series and specials that explore your community and beyond.

Follow Very Local on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for more.



https://www.wlwt.com/article/this-day-in-history-heaven-hill-bourbon-distillery-burns-fire/45757611 Heaven Hill Distillery burns in devastating fire

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