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What Was So Dangerous About the Dublin Whiskey Fire?

The Dublin Whiskey Fire of 1875 was a lethal inferno, not from flames, but from rivers of burning whiskey, which ignited after a malt house and a bonded warehouse caught fire. The blaze claimed lives indirectly through alcohol poisoning, as people consumed the free-flowing spirit. What other hidden dangers did this historical event conceal? Join us to uncover the fiery details.

A river of whiskey might be the stuff of country-western music fantasy, but just such an event turned into tragedy in Dublin, Ireland, in 1875. On a June night, a storehouse holding 5,000 barrels of whiskey and other liquor caught fire, and as the fire spread, the wooden barrels began to burst. This, in turn, sent untold gallons of whiskey cascading down the street.

According to reports, the whiskey river was 6 inches (15 cm) deep, 2 feet (.6 m) wide, and more than 1,300 feet (400 m) long. As beautiful and exciting as the sight must have been, for many in the tenement area, it offered the chance to guzzle down free booze. All sorts of vessels were seen scooping up the hot liquid, including boots.

It might have been fun for a while, but for 13 unlucky souls, the burden of free liquor was too much to bear: They were pronounced dead of alcohol poisoning shortly after the event. Amazingly, the fire itself did not claim a single life.

Alcohol poisoning:

  • For most people, a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.40 or higher poses a significant risk of death.

  • An average of 2,200 people die from alcohol poisoning in the United States every year.

  • One standard serving of whiskey or any distilled spirit is 1.5 fluid ounces (45 ml); it is the equivalent of one 12-ounce (355-ml) glass of beer.

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    • In 1875, 13 people died of alcohol poisoning when a Dublin storehouse caught fire and whiskey flowed in the streets.
      By: Brad Pict
      In 1875, 13 people died of alcohol poisoning when a Dublin storehouse caught fire and whiskey flowed in the streets.