Fire...There have been quite of few of em in this business...T.W. Samuels...Barton's...Seagrams...Wild Turkey...Jim Beam...and of course "The fire of all fires"...Heaven Hill...I saw that one...it was spectacular and scarry at the same time...best two words that I can describe what I saw...
I know there are others...This story is about one of em that I discovered not long ago...It was the Waterfill and Frazier Warehouse fire...This is the same location as the Jim Beam warehouse fire that happened several months ago...
This was published in the Kentucky Standard July 11, 1968...
Fire Destroy's 7-Story Waterfill & Frazier Distillery Warehouse, 5,000 Bbls. Liquor
Bardstown Fireman Save Other Buildings
A fire that broke out shortly after 10 p.m. the night of July 4th destroyed a seven-story warehouse of the Waterfill $ Frazier Distillery on Shawhan Lane at Bardstown in one of the biggest local conflagrations in years.
The blaze burning fiercely in the upper part of the warehouse when discovered by a distillery watchman about 10:05 p.m. sent up a wall of flames that could be seen for 15 miles as burning whiskey poured from the stored barrels.
Flames shot as high as 150 to 200 feet in the air as the whiskey barrels ignited in a series of small explosions.
Saving Nearby Buildings Masterful Job.
The Bardstown Fire Department headed by Chief Arch Pendergrass performed a masterful job in comfining the blaze to Warehouse A. The distillery could have been out of business if the fire had spread to the nearby company office distillery and rectifying plant.
Both the distillery and the rectifying plant caught fire but the blazes were soon extinguished. Only damage to the office is some scorched paint and cracked window panes.
Fireman had the balze under control in about two hours.
Estimated 5,000 Barrels Whiskey lost.
Approximately 5,000 barrels of whiskey were lost in the fire estimated C. M. Ritchie vice-president and general manager of the Waterfill and Frazier plant. We're still taking inventory he said yesterday. It was whiskey of all ages. We were using some whiskey out of it to fiil bottling orders.
Joseph H. Makler, Chicago president of the company arrived at the plant shortly after noon yesterday to assess the situation.
In my opinion, firemen did a very fine job saving the other buildings. They are to be highy commended for it, said President Makler.
Based on a recent average tax valuation of $88 per barrel the loss of the whiskey would approximate $400,000.
Cause of the blaze is still unknown. The only electricity at the warehouse is for the elevator and it was cut off, said Manger Ritchie, and it was on the farthest end away from the fire. He said he had lights on the warehouses removed 11 years ago and mounted on poles on the ground as a precaution against fire.
Ritchie said the watchman discovered the fire at 10:05 p.m. and that in five or six minutes he was there, though he lives several miles away. The fire was breaking out then from under the eaves, he said. Bardstown fireman really worked hard and did an excellent job he said. We can't thank them enough.
Adequate Water Big Factor.
Water was never a problem said Fire Chief Pendergrass. We put the pumper right on the distillery lake.
The distllery had two lakes pointed out Ritchie. The one nearest the distillery which was used holds at least 30 million gallons he said.
Outside help called but not needed.
Within 15 minutes after starting to fight the fire Chief Pendergrass said he and Deputy Chief James (Pinch) Sims decided the local department could keep the blaze under control without additional help. But someone, he doesn't know who, decided to call for the Danville-Boyle County fire department.When I learned Danville had been called, I sent word help wouldn't be needed, and told them to turn back, which they did, said Pendergrass.
The fire starting in the top of the building helped to contain it. When the building fell in, the metal helped to smother the blaze.
The fire was the first at a Bardstown distillery since a blaze in 1948 when a wharehouse at T.W. Samuels Disillery Deatsville burned.
It was the most fire the majority of our men had ever seen, commented Pendergrass. He and Fireman E.C. Janes well remembered the last one...