Smoke fills Southern sky


Lexington Stockyards on Saturday, January 30, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Taylor Pence

By Cheyene Miller

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Flames consumed the Bluegrass Stockyard at Lisle Industrial Avenue in what Interim Fire Chief Harold Hoskins called Lexington’s biggest fire in his 33-year career.

About 120 active and reserve firefighters were on the scene Saturday afternoon as the fire, which started at about 2 p.m., produced clouds of smoke visible from UK campus and beyond.

Hoskins said wind played a major role in the spread of the fire, which completely destroyed businesses and structures between Forbes Road and Lisle Industrial Avenue, and killed about 20 cows.  No civilians or firefighters were injured, Hoskins said.

According to Lexington Fire Department spokesman Joe Best, five businesses were damaged or destroyed in the fire: Bluegrass Stockyard, Slim’s Towing, Johnson Landscaping Materials, Viking Wholesale and Leak Eliminators.

“As the wind blew through, (the stockyard) was engulfed in flames immediately,” Hoskins said. “It’s just a lot of wood, a lot of combustibles.  It’s been here forever, so it (was) dried out and ready to burn.  But the wind is what caused it to cross the street.”

Hoskins said several cars exploded once flames reached an impound lot in the area.

UK spokesman Jay Blanton said the city has not yet asked the university to assist in any way.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray called the performance of Lexington firefighters “extraordinary,” commending their expeditious efforts to keep the fire from spreading.

Kenneth Burdine, an assistant extension professor in UK’s Department of Agricultural Economics, said the stockyard was especially important for small farmers who do not have the money to sell truckloads of cattle on their own.

The fire could have done much more damage had it happened on Sunday or Monday, when more cattle would have been in the stockyard waiting to be sold. 

“There is a very significant number of cattle that move through the stockyard in Lexington,” Burdine said. “This was a very significant business.”

Biology junior Tyler Jors said he was studying in the law library when his girlfriend sent him a picture of the fire.

“My mama raised me to be an adventurer,” Jors said. “I saw smoke … so I walked on over here like a lot of people did.”

Materials engineering freshman Rayna Weibrecht said she talked to several friends on campus who could see the massive smoke cloud.

“I was getting some food over at Taco Bell on campus, and I saw the smoke and decided to come on down and check it out,” Weibrecht said. She said the stockyard fire was the biggest she had ever seen.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Hoskins said the stockyard is considered a total loss.

Best said investigators should have the cause of the fire determined within a week.

Gray said the loss of Bluegrass Stockyard was tragic for Lexington. The stockyard was celebrating 70 years of business.