Whiskey Row Fire Caused By Torch, Investigator Says

The Whiskey Row fire was likely caused by a torch, Louisville’s chief arson investigator said on Thursday.

Metro arson investigators on Wednesday sent a robot into the three historic structures that were badly damaged in a massive fire on Monday, said Louisville Fire Major Henry Ott. The evidence uncovered was consistent with interviews with contract workers who were in the building just before the blaze.

The contract workers had recently begun renovating the buildings on Louisville’s Main Street. Just before the fire began, the workers were removing piping, electrical conduits and other materials. Their equipment included a grinder and acetylene torch, Ott said.

It’s possible that the grinder could have sparked the fire, but the fire was most likely caused by the torch, Ott said.

“It creates a hot molten slag, and that slag could have dropped into some of the wood,” said Ott.

He said the contract workers were never aware the building was on fire when they left on Monday afternoon.

The entire interior of the building is wood—some of it more than a century old, Ott said.

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Structural engineers still have to examine the building before anyone can enter it. Ott said the arson investigation still has some loose ends to tie, but he’s confident they know what caused the fire.

Earlier this week, one of the project’s developers says she believes the plan to convert the building into apartments, restaurants and offices can continue.