Burned buildings come down

Written by Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat March 20, 2013 09:05 am

Two burned-out downtown Sonora buildings, eyesores for more than a year, are finally coming down.

The City of Sonora issued demolition permits this month to property owners of Bombay Indian Cuisine on Washington Street and an apartment complex on Stewart Street. 

Demolition began on the upper floor of Bombay last week and should be completed this week, City of Sonora Community Development Director Rachelle Kellogg said.

Property owners have 180 days to knock down a building after receiving a demolition permit. 

She said the permit — issued March 11 — only applies to the upper floor of the building, which needs to be removed for safety reasons. The remainder of the building cannot be torn down until litigation involving the property is resolved, she said.

AMCO Insurance filed a lawsuit against the owners of the property, Amarjit and Gurwinder Singh, with Tuolumne County Superior Court on May 26, 2010.

The company alleged that the owners were negligent in inspecting and maintaining the property, specifically the electrical panel box and wiring. 

The Sonora Fire Department determined in its investigation that the Dec. 15, 2009, fire started in an electrical sub-panel in an interior wall next to the kitchen.

The parties in the lawsuit agreed on Feb. 9, 2012, that judgment would be entered in favor of the insurance company, according to court documents. Nothing has been filed with the Superior Court for the case since the stipulation. 

The Singhs could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The blaze started when Gurwinder Singh activated the hood fan in the kitchen, and led to a 90-minute firefight. 

About two years later, a Victorian-style apartment building on the 400 block of South Stewart Street was destroyed in a fire. It was apparently ignited by a soldering torch during plumbing repairs. 

The fire destroyed 15 apartments and displaced 10 people, one of whom was taken to Sonora Regional Medical Center with injuries. 

The city issued a demolition permit March 13, and wrecking began Monday.

The building had to undergo an evaluation of its historic value before the permit could be issued because it is more than 50 years old, Kellogg said.

The owner will decide what to do with the property post-demolition, Kellogg said. 

Owner Justin Pfeiffer did not return a phone call seeking comment.

“People in the neighborhood have wanted that building to come down, so it’s nice to see it come down,” Kellogg said.