ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WTVD) -- Nearly a year after a deadly fire destroyed the QVC Distribution Center in Rocky Mount, investigators said they are unable to determine the cause but did say the fire did not appear to be a "criminal act."
The Charlotte Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, along with multiple local and state investigators, said Thursday that they have concluded that the cause is "undetermined."
"After a yearlong investigation, a team of very committed investigators representing ATF and area partners have listed the cause of this devastating fire as undetermined," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Bennie Mims. "Every angle was evaluated and all possible causes were investigated thoroughly. The primary goal is to find out if the cause is accidental, natural, or incendiary. In the end, investigators found that there was not enough evidence to support an exact cause of the fire.
"Investigators looked very closely at whether or not this was a criminal act," Mims added. "Throughout the investigation, there has been no evidence discovered which would support any findings that the cause of this fire was a result of criminal activity."
The fire broke out Dec. 18, 2021, and firefighters from six counties responded to the blaze.
The fire, the largest structural fire in North Carolina history, claimed the life of one employee, Kevon Ricks, and destroyed approximately 75% of the 1.5 million square foot facility.
"We have met with the family of Mr. Ricks to discuss the work over the last year and the efforts made to bring the family closure," said Edgecombe County Sheriff Clee Atkinson. "While a specific cause could not be found, we hope the Ricks' family and everyone impacted by the fire knows that every effort was made and every resource was used to make sure this investigation was as thorough as possible."
Rocky Mount Fire Chief Corey Mercer said the "incident has left a permanent mark on the community."
"We appreciate the opportunity to partner with all the agencies that responded to this tragic event," Mercer said. "The combined effort between local, state, and national resources was critical for mitigating this incident. These partnerships are invaluable to our agency and our community."
The investigation involved ATF's National Response Team and area ATF Special Agents, along with the RMFD, the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office, the Edgecombe County Fire Marshal, and the N.C. Department of Insurance. Investigators conducted 379 interviews with former employees and first responders.
"Investigators made every effort to gather as much information as possible and evaluate every theory, tip, and lead brought forward," said SBI Director Robert Schurmeier. "This team has looked into every contributable factor, including the equipment and infrastructure of the facility, the types of products in the area of the fire's origin, and employee actions and whereabouts. In the end, science has helped explain and dismiss a majority of the possible causes."
Mims said that though the investigation is considered complete, a tip line will remain open for anyone with additional information.
The QVC Distribution Center had been in the area for 21 years and was one of the largest local employers. In April, QVC said it would not rebuild the facility.