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What Was So Dangerous About the Dublin Whiskey Fire?

Updated May 17, 2024
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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.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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