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Lightning strike caused fire at Jim Beam distillery, officials say

By Clyde Hughes

July 11 (UPI) -- The large fire that destroyed a Jim Beam whiskey distillery in Kentucky last week was caused by lightning, investigators said.

The lightning sparked the fire at the company's Woodford County warehouse on July 2. Crews let the flames burn themselves out for several days. The fire caused runoff of bourbon into a nearby waterway, and ultimately the Kentucky River. Officials said 45,000 barrels of young whiskey and a large number of fish in the water were also destroyed.

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John Mura, a spokesman for Kentucky's Energy and Environment Cabinet, confirmed the cause Wednesday.

"There is a penalty and we will be assessing the whole incident and I am sure we will be issuing a notice of violation," Mura said, adding that Kentucky Fish and Wildlife will determine the penalty after negotiations.

Environmental officials said the fish died because the bourbon cut oxygen supplies in the water.

"We continue to see dead and dying fish," environmental officials said this week. "People using the Kentucky River in the area of the plume will likely see and smell dead fish."

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