A fire destroyed 70-year-old Blue Grass Stockyards in Lexington, Ky., over the weekend. Flames spread to nearby businesses and killed 20 head of beef cattle – no human casualties have been reported. Lexington firefighters received a phone call during the 2 p.m. hour on Saturday, Jan. 30 the expansive wooden stockyards had engulfed in flames. According to Lexington fire officials, the fire is the largest they’ve seen in 30 years, taking 120 firefighters to get it under control.
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"It's just a lot of wood, a lot of combustibles. Its' been here forever, so it's dried out and it's ready to burn," Chief Harold Hoskins says in an AP article, comparing the facility to a standing lumber yard. While the stockyards have been doomed as a total loss, it was fortunate the fire broke out on Saturday when it mostly empty.
According to one of the Blue Grass Stockyards owners, Scott Bucher, cattle start filing up the stockyards on Sunday to prepare for Monday’s sale, so it is the slowest day of the week in terms of cattle and employee numbers. As of now, sales for the Lexington stockyards will be moved to surrounding Blue Grass Stockyard locations. A complete schedule can be found online at www.bgstockyards.com.
Because of wind conditions, flames, which have been reported to have hit 40 to 70 feet in the air, jumped from the area to nearby businesses, destroying several vehicles in a towing company, along with an entire city block. Smoke was also an issue for residence downwind from the fire, causing the American Red Cross to open a shelter at the Cardinal Valley Elementary school and anyone within a half mile radius of the fire to stay indoors with their ventilation turned off.
“This is truly a sad day for Blue Grass Stockyards and the agricultural community. A historic piece of Kentucky agriculture has been lost, but we are thankful to hear that all stockyard employees escaped the blaze without injury. We also salute the more than 120 firefighters who continue working to contain and put out this massive fire. Our firefighters do a dangerous job with skill and courage, and we appreciate all they do to protect us,” Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles says. “We are also saddened to learn of the deaths of the cattle that were unable to escape the blaze. Farmers feel a deep responsibility for the well-being of their livestock, and for the owners of these cattle as well as the stockyard workers, this is a great personal loss.”