ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce, Carolina Gateways Partnership, United Way, and other local agencies are working together to raise money for people out of work following Saturday's deadly fire at the QVC Distribution Center.
"Shock. horror. grief for those who will be affected by the employment in the days, weeks, and months to come," said David Farris, President and CEO of the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce.
Farris said QVC employs 1,200 to 1,500 people full-time, and ramps up hiring for the holidays with seasonal workers.
"The support from the community has been nothing short of amazing. From the time word got out, it was 'what can we do to help? Where can we best help? How can we support these families?' And it's coming in and the inquiries, the phone calls, the e-mails, it's just been heartwarming," said Farris.
QVC will pay workers through the end of the year, as they assess next steps for 2022. Farris anticipates the economic impact of the lost jobs will be felt beginning late January.
"(Funds raised) may go toward medicine, it may go toward rent or mortgage. It may go toward utilities, food. It's going to be tightly controlled, but that's where we see the need going forward," Farris said.
The Distribution Center has been in Rocky Mount for 21 years, and draws workers from several neighboring counties, making it one of the largest employers in the area.
"We're in this thing for the long haul, and we will get through it. We will absolutely get through it," said Farris.
Farris noted that state agencies are also assisting those affected with unemployment applications and job sourcing opportunities. He did not share an exact amount raised so far, though he said it had exceeded expectations.
"Rocky Mount has been known over the decades, per capita, one of the most generous counties in the state of North Carolina," said Farris.
Firefighters from six counties have worked the scene at the 1.5 million-square foot site, in which 75% of the building was damaged.
"The first responders, the fire departments, both volunteer fire departments as well as city (departments) like Rocky Mount, Tarboro, Wilson, Goldsboro, Raleigh, all came in. And they're still here. While some of them may not be at the site right now, they're manning stations in and around Rocky Mount and Nash and Edgecombe counties, so our people can be out there to address the hotspots," said Farris.
Tuesday, the ATF's National Response Team arrived on site, after Edgecombe County requested their assistance. An ATF spokesperson told ABC11 that up to 30 special agents and forensics staffers will be working to determine the cause of the fire. Their initial work will include assessing the structural integrity of the facility, and constructing safety supports where needed, which will be done late Tuesday and Wednesday.
"This is a very important collaboration, given the size of this facility and the role this distribution center played in the community," said Charlotte Field Division's Special Agent in Charge Vince Pallozzi in a statement. "ATF will work in partnership with local and state fire and law enforcement agencies to assist in any way we can."
Kevon Ricks, 21, a contractor who recently started working at the QVC Distribution Center, died in the fire. The father of a 1-year old is being remembered by loved ones for his humility and love of his young child.
"I've been crying all day. I'm not hurt for just myself, not just for his mother, not just for his son. I'm hurt for my son. I'm hurt for people who know he's a humble guy. He's a great person," said Stephanie Randolph, Ricks' aunt and godmother said Saturday evening. Edgecombe County officials confirmed they discovered Ricks' body the following day.
Ricks' family told ABC11 that they have questions about safety protocols, specifically in determining workers whereabouts immediately after the fire began. Initially, QVC told Edgecombe County officials that they believed everybody was able to get out.