Hot spots delay QVC fire investigation as Rocky Mount officials reflect on 2,000 job losses close to Christmas


ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WNCN) — One person is dead and about 2,000 people are without work after the QVC distribution center in Rocky Mount went up in flames over the weekend.

Smoke continues to cloud the air at the facility, two days after the fire first began early Saturday morning.

On Monday, crews worked to get at least two hot spots under control, as the QVC and Rocky Mount community grieve the loss of one employee, 21-year-old Kevon Ricks.

Authorities told CBS 17 that the hotspots are preventing investigators from getting inside of the facility, therefore preventing them from determining the cause of the fire.

Embers from the flames also sparked a two-acre fire in the nearby woods Saturday, forcing forestry crews to divert their attention for a short time.

Now, officials and community leaders are trying to figure out what happens next.

“It’s a total loss,” said David Farris, the president of the Greater Rocky Mount Chamber of Commerce.

Almost 1.5 million square feet of the facility went up in flames and is unsalvageable.

“Fires like this often leave a fingerprint, so hopefully they’ll be able to determine the cause in a short period of time,” added Farris.

The Rocky Mount facility was QVC’s second-largest distribution center.

“It was a source of pride,” explained Farris. “It provided steady jobs, steady income, and steady paychecks. They’ve been here a little over 20 years.”

So what happens now?

Farris said they’re all still in shock.

“We hope that does include strong consideration of rebuilding here,” he added.

That could take about two years, factoring in several months of a massive cleanup effort, followed by a re-construction.

That’s if QVC decides to stay in the area.

“Frankly, I don’t know of a better place for it,” said Farris.

In the meantime, the local economy will take a hit.

Farris told CBS 17 the area benefitted greatly from the sales tax revenue that the distribution center brought in.

“It’s going to be substantial but hopefully that’s a temporary thing,” he explained.

Right now, nearly 2,000 people are without work.

Farris said local officials are working with state leaders to ensure in the new year, these displaced workers will find new jobs.

“There are job openings and job opportunities,” he said. “The mechanism the state will put in is ‘matchmaking,’ where one skillset might be good for one type of manufacturing and distribution.”

QVC is paying employees at least through the end of the year.

There were some employees at the site of the fire on Monday afternoon, watching fire crews work.

They didn’t want to go on camera with CBS 17, but said they were devastated to see the destruction.

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