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An explosion and fire Thursday night caused significant damage¬†to¬†a GenCanna hemp processing facility in Kentucky, according to authorities.
Several GenCanna employees were inside the facility off Colby Road in Winchester when the fire was reported about 8:15 p.m. Thursday, but no one was injured, according to Clark County Fire Chief Ernie Barnes.
Barnes said the cause of the fire and explosion is under investigation.
Crews with the Winchester Fire Department, Kentucky State Police and State Fire Marshal’s Office assisted with the response to the fire and are involved in the investigation, Barnes added.
The Lexington Fire Department also¬†sent crews to help cover other calls in the area while Clark County personnel handled the GenCanna fire, Barnes said.
“Our initial responding crews just did an outstanding job to knock (the flames) down quickly,” Barnes said, adding that crews finished up at the scene about¬†2 a.m. Friday.
The part of the facility that exploded and caught fire is used for purifying CBD, Barnes said. It suffered a fair amount of structural damage, he added.
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A second, smaller building connected to the main building where the fire occurred suffered some water and smoke damage, according to Barnes.
A GenCanna¬†official could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
But the Winchester-based company confirmed to WKYT that the G1 building of its Hemp Research Campus caught fire. A GenCanna official told the Lexington news outlet that¬†five employees were inside the facility at the time of the explosion and fire but not inside the lab area where the blast happened.
“GenCanna‚Äôs management and employees express their sincere gratitude to the Winchester Fire and Police Departments for their quick and effective action,” GenCanna Executive Vice President Gary Broadbent told WKYT. “They went above and beyond the call of duty, and we are eternally grateful.”
Broadbent added that nonmanagerial¬†employees at the building damaged in the fire were not required to report to work on Friday but will be paid for the normal shift.
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GenCanna Global employs 160 at its Winchester headquarters and has spent¬†millions of dollars growing and expanding production¬†of the hemp crop and hemp-derived CBD.
CBD, or cannabidiol,¬†lacks a¬†large amount of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in¬†marijuana. CBD oil has been touted for its ability to cure ailments like arthritis and anxiety.
Hemp also has numerous industrial uses to¬†make products like rope, insulation and clothing.
The hemp industry was bolstered last year after Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, which¬†removed¬†industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.
GenCanna was one of the first members of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s industrial hemp initiative. In January, the company announced¬†it had worked with University of Kentucky researchers to develop hemp plants without a trace of THC.
GenCanna has also been attempting to build a new Western Kentucky hemp processing facility in Mayfield.
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