ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) – A shattered glass door, soot covered walls and piles of debris — that is what’s left after fire destroyed a decades-old business in Elizabeth City.
Crews spent Monday night pulling debris and furniture from the burned Stallings Funeral Home building. For 39 years, the Stallings family has owned and operated the business in a building that was once a post office. Now it may take more than $200,000 to rebuild.
“When I got here, [there was] the initial hurt because I know the blood and sweat that has come behind this business,” Funeral Director Timothy Stallings Jr. said.
It was not the call he was expecting early Sunday morning as he prepared for church. “I was thinking somebody needed our help, but I didn’t realize that we were in need,” he said.
Neighbor Orlando Ovalle awoke to the flames. He said the building looked red: “I saw the flames. It was real bad, real bad.”
Stallings said he saw the smoke, the flashing lights and got there as the firefighters battled the blaze.
“It didn’t take long for fire to spread, so anything that was combustible, wood or whatever,” he said. “This is a place of business that we do use chemicals, so it didn’t take long.”
Stallings said fire crews told him an electrical problem in a utility room started the fire, and the flames quickly spread through the ceiling. He said the family worked to salvage what they could, but so much of their livelihood is gone.
“We had a lot of technology, a lot of computers, a lot of televisions. We had a lot of caskets with no remains in them,” he said.
Out of respect for the families they service, Stallings would not say if there were any remains inside the building when it caught fire, but he said their work hasn’t stopped.
“We are planning to be here for a long time,” he said.
Stallings told 10 On Your Side that despite the fire, they had a memorial service and a wake on Sunday. Monday, they had a funeral. He said it could take three to six months to rebuild.
The family operates another funeral home in Hertford, N.C., about 20 minutes from the one in Elizabeth City.