Update: This article was updated Thursday evening with a Facebook post form the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.
Update: This article was updated Thursday afternoon with comments from a Kentucky EEC press release.
Parts of a Jim Beam warehouse were still on fire Thursday evening, nearly 48 hours after flames engulfed the building on the Franklin-Woodford County line.
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said on its Facebook page that officials from the cabinet, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Beam Suntory met Thursday afternoon to monitor the fire's possible environmental impacts. Beam Suntory owns the Jim Beam brand. The Facebook post said that the fire was still burning at the time but was contained.
The EPA has been on scene since Thursday to assess and contain damage.
The fire broke out late Tuesday night and has destroyed about 45,000 barrels of bourbon. Woodford County Emergency Management Director Drew Chandler said that the cause of the fire was likely lightning. He said that the only thing left burning on Thursday was ethanol fumes.
Chandler said all the barrels had burned and the liquid had pooled in the foundation.
"But there's so much debris, we can't see how much liquid is left," he said. The debris includes bricks, cinder blocks and metal, including the bands that held the barrels together.
Chandler said heavy equipment was being brought in to move the debris, but the fire was still too hot for the equipment to get very near the site. A fire crew was standing by on Thursday and law enforcement agents were at the site to prevent trespassing, he said.
A Versailles police officer told a State Journal reporter at the scene Thursday morning that small patches of spirits were still burning and first responders had decided to let them burn out instead of using water to put out the flames, as it would risk spills into the Glenns Creek and Kentucky River.
Woodford Emergency Management said in a Facebook post that it was notified of a structure fire at the warehouse at 12:21 a.m. Wednesday.
The Kentucky EEC said in a press release on Thursday distributed by the Frankfort-Franklin County Office of Emergency Management that state officials are expecting to see foaming, discoloration and taste and odor in the water from Kentucky River.
Both the cabinet and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources are seeing fish kills and distressed fish among the impacts on aquatic life in the river. Fishing or other recreational activities on the Kentucky River are not prohibited at this time.
The press release said that both agencies urge caution when eating distressed fish. They recommend that when discovering an unhealthy or dying fish, do not capture or eat it.
"Never consume fish that have already died," the press release said.
Franklin County firefighters helped battle the fire on Wednesday. Battalion Chief John Hellard said that the department's firefighters left that afternoon.
The Frankfort Plant Board issued a statement Wednesday saying that its drinking water from the Kentucky River is safe to drink. Some customers may smell a sweet or bourbon odor, FPB said.
Jim Beam said in a press release that no one was injured as a result of the fire and thanked first responders for bringing the fire under control. The distillery has 126 warehouses in the state with over 3.3 million barrels and the Woodford County warehouse held young whiskey not ready for bottling. The destroyed whiskey amounted to about 1% of Beam's bourbon inventory.
"Given the age of the lost whiskey, this fire will not impact the availability of Jim Beam for consumers," the press release said. "We appreciate the support of our neighbors and the Kentucky Bourbon community as we manage through this incident."
The Kentucky Distillers' Association, which is based in Frankfort, issued a statement on Wednesday about the fire and said that the association is offering support to Jim Beam in the aftermath of the fire.
"The KDA and its members are working together to assist and support our friends at Beam," the press release said.
Hannah Brown and The Associated Press contributed to this report.