Demolition begins on fire-ravaged downtown Sterling apartment building

Demolition of the three story building began early Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023.

STERLING – Demolition began Tuesday morning on the shell of a downtown Sterling apartment building destroyed by a fire July 7 that also took the life of a tenant.

It probably will take two days to get the basement at 406/408 E. Third St. filled and the debris hauled away, Patrick Burke, owner of Burke Excavating of Tampico, has said.

Juan Antonio “Tony” Anaya, 62, died in the fire, along with a German shepherd he was caring for. His remains were recovered July 11. An official cause of death has not yet been released.

The building’s owner, Mihail “Mike” Mihalios, 71, of Chicago, is responsible for the cleanup.

Burke must fill the three-story building’s basement and haul away the debris. He will top the vacant space with with dirt so it can be seeded, per the city’s request, he said.

The fire began about 2:20 a.m., apparently on the third floor of the circa 1920 building.

Another tenant, Kimberly Johnson, 56, was injured when she jumped from her third-floor apartment to escape the flames. She no longer is being treated at OSF St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, a spokeswoman there said.

The apartment building had eight apartments on the second and third floors, and 13 tenants. There were two vacant commercial spots on the first floor.

The two-story to the east at 412/414 E. Third St., an apartment building with a laundromat that Mihalios also owns, was not occupied.

The apartment building to the west, at 302 Fourth Ave. is owned by Kurt & Brian Properties LLC. Its three tenants were evacuated and have not been allowed to return.

Debris from 406/408 fell on both buildings, and they won’t be fully evaluated for potential damage until the rubble is cleaned up, City Manager Scott Shumard has said.

The ATF National Response Team, which is investigating the cause of the fire, has not yet turned in its report to Sterling police and the city.

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Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.