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Fire Does Extensive Damage to Louisville Whiskey Row Buildings

Louisville firefighters will monitor through the night three historic Whiskey Row buildings that were extensively damaged by fire Monday afternoon.

As of Monday evening, firefighters were still working to extinguish flames burning through a stretch of a historic Whiskey Row buildings in downtown Louisville. A Louisville Fire spokesman said the three-alarm fire was dwindling but not yet entirely under control.

"We're keeping it in check from spreading to any other buildings. Right now it's contained," said Capt. Sal Melendez, the Louisville Fire spokesman.

He said crews are "very hopeful" the facades of the structures can at least be saved.

Apart from the facades, however, the damage done to the rest of the buildings is extensive, Melendez said.

No injuries have been reported.

The fire began at about 4:30 Monday evening in the 100 block of Main Street, he said. The building was burning intensely by the time crews arrived on scene.

"We had our hands full from the very beginning," he said.

About 80 firefighters worked the fire with ladder trucks and hoses pumping thousands of gallons of water into the flames. Residents congregated around the perimeter to watch the flames and smoke billow from the buildings.

It's not yet known how the fire started. Melendez said the fire started in a  basement.

Construction crews working on renovations to the buildings were the last known people inside, Melendez said.

A few areas of the buildings collapsed. Parked cars along the east side of the structures were crushed by a slew of bricks that tumbled from the top of the four story building.

The collapses worked against the firefighter's efforts, Melendez said. The debris from the collapses blocked firefighters' access to the fire source.

Nearby restaurants and apartments have been evacuated and will remain throughout the night, Melendez said.

Whiskey Row dates back to the 1870s.

The stretch of historic buildings sold to investment group Main Street Revitalization LLC. in 2011 for about $4.8 million.

Craig Greenberg, a spokesman for the investment group, said "it is absolutely nauseating to see fire ravage these buildings."

"We certainly hope it's saved and later this evening it's still standing when they put out the fire," he said.

Greenberg said renovation on the buildings began just weeks ago. A combined space of restaurants, office space and apartments were planned for the buildings.

Rebecca Matheny, executive director of the Louisville Downtown Partnership, said the buildings are the "last intact block really in downtown of historic buildings."

"That makes it an incredibly important block," she said. "In this era, this really is the golden child of preservation."

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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