Explosion heavily damages Kentucky hemp processing facility

GenCanna is a hemp processing company. (WKYT)

WINCHESTER, Ky. (WKYT) — A Clark County dispatcher told WKYT there was an explosion and a fire at a hemp processing plant in Kentucky Thursday night.

The plant, called GenCanna is an agricultural technology company and has a hemp processing facility in Clark County.

One employee told WKYT they were emailed and notified all employees evacuated the facility and got out safely.

Firefighters reported to the facility off of Colby Road at 8:14 p.m. They were dispatched to an explosion.

GenCanna confirms that the G1 building of the Hemp Research Campus caught fire.

Clark County Fire Chief Ernie Barnes says they saw a large fire in the middle part of the building when they arrived.

Barnes said crews were working at the time. Firefighters have no reports of any injuries, and GenCanna confirms there were no injuries.

"Firefighters knocked down the flames pretty quick," Barnes said.

Part of GenCanna's business is to extra CBD oil from hemp plants.

Barnes said the part of the building that exploded and caught fire looks more like a laboratory. He said it's close to the size of a gym and had a lot of structural damage.

"They do use some different chemicals in their refining process, so that makes [us] a little extra cautious, and then just due to the structural damage, we have to make sure that it's safe for our crews to work in," said Barnes.

An official with GenCanna confirms that five employees were inside the facility at the time of the blast, but they were not in the lab area.

Firefighters continued monitoring hot spots for several hours. Chief Barnes said the building has a double ceiling, and firefighters were pulling down the second ceiling to check for more hot spots and assess the damage.

As per protocol, Kentucky State Police's arson investigator was called to the fire to inspect the scene.

Kentucky State Police, the state fire marshal, and the Winchester Fire Department will all work together to investigate the cause of the explosion and fire that followed.

"GenCanna’s management and employees express their sincere gratitude to the Winchester Fire and Police Departments for their quick and effective action. They went above and beyond the call of duty, and we are eternally grateful," said GenCanna Executive Vice President Gary Broadbent.

Non-management employees at that building are not required to report to work on Friday and will be paid for their normal shift, Broadbent said.

The Lexington Fire Department also responded to the area to help cover other calls in the area.

GenCanna Global is based in Winchester. The cash crop has roots in Clark County that date back to the 1800s.

It was one of the first members of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's Industrial Hemp Pilot Program. The company was also the first to build a commercial hemp-specific crop processor, called 'Big Blue,' and created Kentucky's first internal processing lab for hemp.

Our news partners at the Herald-Leader report GenCanna employs about 160 people in Winchester.

GenCanna also cultivates and supplies farms with hemp plants.

In January, GenCanna announced that it developed a strain of hemp with 0.0 percent THC after partnering with a research team from the University of Kentucky.

GenCanna has partnered with more than 60 farming families. The company has more than 30 million plants on more than 6,000 acres.