Charred building remains still standing in downtown Mount Morris

The charred building that once housed Sharky's Sports Bar on Wesley Ave., in Mt. Morris, remains standing Monday, June 3, 2024 following the April 16, 2024 fire that destroyed it and the adjacent building to the south  A portion of Wesley Ave. has been blocked off by the Mt. Morris Street Department.

MOUNT MORRIS – The charred remains of a downtown building destroyed in an April 16 fire remain standing, but its precarious condition has prompted village officials to cordon off the area around the structure as a safety precaution.

Village President Phil Labash said the village made the decision to block off a portion of Wesley Avenue, the street that runs along the west side of the former Sharky’s Sports Bar, and one lane of East Main Street to the north out of fear that two remaining portions of the structure could fall.

“The walls are starting to lean significantly. Our concern is for public safety,” Labash said Monday evening.

The Mount Morris Fire Department received a call at 1:33 p.m. Tuesday, April 16, after a resident reported seeing flames coming from an apartment in the building at 1 N. Wesley Ave.

When firefighters arrived at the location, they saw heavy smoke and visible flames from the street-level windows of the downstairs apartment.

“There were several occupants exiting the building as well as attempting to put the fire out,” Mount Morris fire Chief Rob Hough said after the fire.

All occupants had exited the building and were accounted for, but the fire advanced rapidly because of strong winds and the age and condition of the structures. There was one injury reported – an occupant who reported smoke inhalation and was treated by emergency medical services at the scene. Social media reports of several pets dying in the fire could not be verified.

Hough said fire crews “proactively evacuated” the building that housed Sharky’s Sports Bar and, as a precaution, Rockford Bell Credit Union, located east of the fire at 4 E. Main St.

Several companies using multiple large-diameter hose lines, ground monitors and three tower ladders brought the fire under control about 3:45 p.m..

The fire department along with the Mount Morris Police Department, the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Ogle County Sheriff’s Office, as well as agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are conducting a joint investigation into the incident.

On Tuesday, Hough said the investigation had been completed but a written report still is pending.

Labash said the city still is waiting for that report from the state fire marshal’s office.

“We are at a standstill until then,” Labash said. “Our attorney has told us that is going to take some time.”

Demolition cannot begin until the report is received and the insurance claim for Sharky’s is settled, Labash said.

“As far as the village is concerned, we wanted to make it as safe and secure as we can,” he said.

Labash praised the quick efforts of the fire department for stopping the fire from spreading to other nearby structures. The buildings are bordered by a Shell gas station on the north, separated by a parking area, and the credit union on the east, separated only by a walkway.

Earleen Hinton

Earleen Hinton

Earleen creates content and oversees production of 8 community weeklies. She has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.