Sockeye Fire trial to begin at end of November

The Sockeye Fire which devastated Willow in 2015 (Photo courtesy of the Mat-Su Borough)
The Sockeye Fire which devastated Willow in 2015 (Photo courtesy of the Mat-Su Borough)

Two Alaskans charged with starting the destructive Sockeye wildfire over a year ago will face trial starting in late November.

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According to Palmer assistant district attorney Eric Senta, trial proceedings start Nov. 29 at the state courthouse in Palmer.

The state of Alaska is seeking an acknowledgement of criminal negligence and an acceptance of responsibility on the part of the two defendants.

Greg Imig and Amy DeWitt were charged with eight counts – ranging from failure to obtain a burn permit to reckless endangerment – when the origin of the fire was traced to a burning debris pile they left unattended in Willow in June of 2015.

Both the state and defendants’ attorneys have attempted to negotiate an out-of-court settlement, filing motions and counter-motions through the summer and fall. Assistant DA Senta said the state has collected a great deal of documented evidence in the case.

The criminal counts against the defendants are all misdemeanors. But the extent of the damage caused by the fire is enormous; the fire swept more than 7,000 acres and destroyed 55 homes and close to 50 other outbuildings.

No deaths are attributed to the fire, but it cost the state $8 million to fight the blaze.

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APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone. Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen

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