State Says Sockeye Fire Sprung from A Burn Pile; 2 Face Charges

Troopers stop traffic on the Parks Highway Monday morning as the Sockeye Fire spreads. (Photo by John Norris - Alaska Public Media)
Troopers stop traffic on the Parks Highway Monday morning as the Sockeye Fire spreads. (Photo by John Norris – Alaska Public Media)

On Monday, the State of Alaska filed charges against two Anchorage residents for starting the debris burn that turned into the 7,200-acre Sockeye Fire. The fire destroyed fifty-five homes and damaged forty-four other structures, according to the state.

In a press release issued Monday afternoon, Division of Forestry spokesman Tim Mowry says that charges were filed against 59-year-old Greg Imig and 42-year-old Amy Dewitt. Charges include three counts of reckless endangerment, negligent burning, failure to obtain a burn permit, not clearing the burn area, and, ultimately, allowing the fire to spread unattended.

The Division of Forestry and Alaska Fire Marshal’s office say that Imig and Dewitt were burning debris on the evening of June 13th near their cabin at mile 77 of the Parks Highway. The state claims that the fires were left unattended, and one continued to smolder, igniting the nearby forest the next day.

The charges facing Imig and Dewitt are all misdemeanors, four of which carry maximum penalties of $10,000 and a year in jail, each. Forestry spokesman Tim Mowry says that individuals responsible for starting a wildfire can be held accountable for two-times the cost of fighting the fire. The state’s latest estimate on the cost of suppressing the Sockeye Fire is $8 million.