ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WNCN) – Crews from six counties and 45 different agencies battled a massive fire at the QVC Distribution Center located on QVC Boulevard, off Highway 64 in Rocky Mount Saturday morning.
One worker was reported missing by family members, but there were no injuries during the fire, officials said Saturday afternoon. The blaze damaged 75 percent of one building of the distribution center for the home-shopping television network.
QVC officials reported that all workers were accounted for, but one family later said they had not been in contact with a relative they knew was working when the fire broke out, officials said.
Rocky Mount fire officials said Saturday afternoon that firefighting efforts were defensive from the start of the blaze just after 2 a.m. There were 47 water drops on the fire from aircraft overnight, officials said.
Rocky Mount fire officials said the fire was still not under control as of 3 p.m. Saturday when smoke could still be seen from the building and fire officials said there were active “hot spots” they were trying to access.
By 7 p.m. Saturday, the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office said only 60 to 70 percent of the fire has been contained and crews are still actively working it.
Reports across social media said flames could be seen for miles during the night. During the blaze, video showed large fireballs rolling upwards from the structure.
According to a Facebook post from the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce, up to 2,500 families will be affected by the fire.
“It’s a sad day for Rocky Mount,” Mike Causey, North Carolina Commissioner of Insurance and State Fire Marshal, said at a news conference. Causey said it was the largest fire he had seen during his lifetime.
“My heart goes out to the folks that right here at Christmas that lost jobs — at least temporarily,” Causey added.
Officials said Saturday afternoon that the building had a sprinkler system and it was working during the fire until the massive blaze “overtook” the sprinklers.
A drone was used during the fire to help fire crews direct water streams on the blaze, officials said.
Fire officials said Saturday afternoon that they have been to the facility multiple times in the past because of employees activating false fire alarms. Edgecombe County fire chief James Bowen said that when fire crews responded to the “multiple” false alarms in the past they were told by QVC security officers that the calls were because of employees stealing items.
“I know that every elected official at the state and local level will be working to rebuilding this facility as quickly as possible,” Causey said.
Causey said an investigation has started and it would last “as long as needed” to find out what started the fire.
Causey also said QVC workers could go online immediately to apply for any unemployment benefits.
The North Carolina Forest Service said that a nearby 2-acre wildfire was started by the building’s fire. Crews from the forest service managed to put out that blaze.
Officials in Rocky Mount said Small Shops Mall at 2916 Sunset Ave. is collecting snacks, bottled water, Gatorade and other items to help the first responders and firefighters at QVC.
QVC released the following statement:
“There was a fire at our QVC Rocky Mount location in North Carolina on Saturday, December 18. At this time, we are focused on the safety and well-being of our Team Members. In addition, we are also working to understand the full impact to products and orders and will provide further details to our customers are soon as they are available. We are working with the local authorities to investigate the source of this issue and will provide another update when appropriate.”