KENTUCKY (ABC News) — The Kentucky River was littered with dead fish on Sunday in the wake of a massive fire at a bourbon warehouse.
Officials with the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet shared images on its Facebook page to illustrate how the fire at the Jim Beam warehouse near Louisville had devastated wildlife.
Nearly 45,000 barrels of alcohol were destroyed in the fire, which required firefighters from four neighboring counties to assist in putting it out. Firefighters held back from dousing the blaze with too much water — anticipating that bourbon-tainted runoff might contaminate nearby bodies of water.
Even still, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said the fire left a 23-mile-long alcohol plume in the Kentucky River. Beam Suntory, Jim Beam’s parent company, said it sent environmental cleanup crews and consultants to the area after the blaze.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources said it was conducting wildlife assessments in an effort to determine a “fish kill count.” Officials warned residents to beware of “dead and dying fish.”
“We continue to see dead and dying fish. People using the Kentucky River in the area of the plume will likely see and smell dead fish,” Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said in a statement. “We expect the plume to dissipate quickly at it enters the much, much larger body of water but there could be some impact to aquatic life immediately where the two rivers meet.”
The plume is expected to reach the Ohio River sometime very early Monday morning, according to the statement.
Authorities aren’t sure of what may have caused the blaze, but a previously-released statement from Beam Suntory referenced early reports of a lightning strike.
There were no injuries reported.