ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WRAL) – An intense five-alarm fire at a QVC distribution center in Rocky Mount destroyed most of the building on Saturday morning, dealing a devastating blow to a significant employer in the area.
“This is devastating for our county,” said Edgecombe County Manager Eric Evans.
75% of the facility, on QVC Boulevard near Highway 64, was destroyed. The fire drew multiple alarms after starting just after 2 a.m. Firefighters were still on the scene at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon, Evans.
While QVC officials said that everyone inside the center made it out of the building safe, the sheriff’s office is investigating a report of a one employee who is missing.
Traffic was blocked off around the facility as fire engines and tanker trucks were brought in. Numerous agencies were at the scene. Officials said all employees were evacuated safely.
“As far as we know right now, there no one was hurt and no one lost their life here,” Evans said. He confirmed the main part of the building was destroyed.
Timothy Richardson, an employee at QVC, was among one of the 300 employees in the building when fire alarms started blaring.
“As soon as we got to the door, we heard the fire alarm,” he said. “That is when we saw the flames all over the top of the building.”
The fire spread quickly, and as it did, Richardson knew he wouldn’t return to work anytime soon.
“I lost my job,” he said.
As the sun rose, the scope of the damage became more clear. A thick column of smoke was still visible and a large part of the building had caved in. Drone footage revealed a large swath of the building was burned down. Large plumes of smoke were still rising from the building just before noon.
A Facebook post from the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce said that up to 2,500 families will be affected by the fire.
“We are so thankful to God that there has been no loss of life,” said David Farris, president of Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce.
People from several surrounding counties are employed by the distributor, he said.
“It’s going to affect our economy.”
The distribution center came to the area in 1999 and expanded in February 2011. Edgecombe County Manager Eric Evans said there are likely employees who have been working with QVC since 2000.
Around 1,200 people work at the facility on an average day — with that number likely inflated during this time of year due to the holiday shopping season.
“Our goal is to work with state agencies to try and help them get the assistance that they need,” Evans said of the employees impacted. “That’s critical. This devastation is more than just this physical building.”
In a 2006 Tar Heel Traveler report, Scott Mason said the facility was around 1,500,000 square feet and roughly the size of 30 football fields.
Rocky Mount Fire Department is leading the operation while roughly 30 departments from surrounding towns and counties have responded in support.
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