• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 32s

Sockeye fire trial begins in Palmer

By Shannon Ballard 1:10 PM April 20, 2017

The trial for the couple accused of starting the Sockeye fire began Thursday morning inside of a Palmer courtroom.

Greg Imig and Amy Dewitt sat quietly during opening statements and as the prosecution’s first witness took the stand. Dewitt and Imig face 12 charges each for burning without a permit, property damage crimes and reckless endangerment.

The Sockeye fire began on a Sunday afternoon, on June 14, 2015. Fifty-five homes were destroyed; more than 7000 acres of land burned; several animals were killed.

Now, state prosecutors are arguing that the wildfire started on Imig’s property, from an unattended burn pile.

Dewitt and her son called 911 three times to report the fire, as it spread rapidly. But the state is arguing that Imig, Dewitt and her son fled without stopping the fire or warning neighbors.

“They did nothing to put it out or monitor the fire or watch the fire in any way,” said Assistant District Attorney Eric Senta. “In the end, this case is going to about the recklessness.”

Imig’s defense attorney, Kevin Fitzgerald, maintains his client’s innocence. Imig admits he didn’t have a burn permit, but Fitzgerald says his client was burning responsibly.

“The defense expects that, at the conclusion of the trial, you are going to find that the source pit– what the state has characterized as the source pit– is not only inconclusive as it relates to origin but is not the origin of the Sockeye fire,” Fitzgerald said.

Among the witnesses testifying during the first day of trial was Willow Fire Department Capt. Leo Lashock. He recalled his own home burning while he worked to evacuate others.

“[I lost] everything. I mean everything,” Captain Lashock said. “You could shovel the house into buckets.”

Other people who lost their home in the blaze, and watched Thursday’s proceedings, said it was emotional to remember the first day of the Sockeye fire, which was replayed for them again in court, at the very beginning of what’s expected to be a lengthy trial.

Talon Boeve’s family lost 39 acres to the fire, but miraculously, their home survived.

“I’m not sure we’ll be happy with the way it ends, but it’s a natural conclusion and we’ve been waiting for this for quite a while,” Boeve said.

If Imig and Dewitt are found guilty, state statute says they could be required to pay double the amount of the damages caused by the fire, including the costs of extinguishing it.

Fitzgerald is hopeful that the 10 person jury will find Imig not guilty on all charges, besides the burn permit violation. Fitzgerald is also asking for an acquittal on all charges for Dewitt.

The courtroom took a lunch break early-Thursday afternoon.

Latest Stories

  • Story Time with Aunt Phil: The WWII battle on the Aleutian chain

    by Laurel Downing Bill on May 26, 12:52

    The battle for the Aleutians became – in proportion to the number of opposing troops – one of the most expensive battles in the Pacific, second only to Iwo Jima. It later was described as the most difficult and dangerous in all modern warfare. U.S. infantry made the first amphibious island landing in its history […]

  • DayBreak

    Mic Check in the Morning: Termination Dust

    by Daybreak Staff on May 26, 12:15

    Dream-pop band Termination Dust will play at the Williwaw in Downtown Anchorage Friday, May 26. They will join The Modern Savage and Alex the Lion. The quartet has released one album, “Familiar Eyes,” which can be purchased on Bandcamp.com. To keep up with the band, you can visit their Facebook page. The concert starts at […]

  • Weather

    Holiday weekend forecast brings variety of weather conditions to Southcentral Alaska

    by Rachael Penton on May 26, 12:10

    If you’re spending some time outdoors in Southcentral Alaska this weekend, be prepared for a variety of weather conditions. A showery weather pattern will keep conditions damp and cooler than normal through Memorial Day. Friday will bring areas of sunshine and mostly dry conditions to start, but scattered showers will again develop across the area during […]

  • DayBreak

    Daybreak Adopt-A-Pet: May 26, 2017

    by Daybreak Staff on May 26, 11:00

    From Anchorage Animal Care and Control: Brett: Brett is a handsome, energetic, playful and affectionate 9-year old boy. He’s a friendly dog who smiles at everyone he meets. Rocky: Rocky is just one of 24 cats up for adoption. All of them would just love a forever home. Caption contest winner: This week’s caption contest […]

  • News

    US Coast Guard says new ships could be stationed in Sitka

    by Associated Press on May 26, 9:13

    SITKA, Alaska (AP) – The U.S. Coast Guard has told Alaska city officials that one or two new ships could be stationed in Sitka. The Daily Sitka Sentinel reported Thursday that Lt. Cmdr. Michael Newell says the Coast Guard is still trying to figure out if it would be feasible to station additional fast response […]

  • News

    Searchers seek 2 missing after boat overturns on Yukon River

    by Associated Press on May 26, 9:07

    BEAVER, Alaska (AP) – Alaska State Troopers are searching for two hunters from the village of Beaver who disappeared after their boat overturned on the Yukon River. A third person in the boat, 45-year-old Kim Andon of Rampart, walked along the river for three days and was found Wednesday about 2 miles  (3.2 kilometers) downriver […]

  • News

    Searchers recover bodies of 2 villagers on egg-hunting trip

    by Associated Press on May 26, 9:02

    SHAKTOOLIK, Alaska (AP) – The bodies of two western Alaska villagers have been recovered from a slough near the village of Shaktoolik. Alaska State Troopers say the bodies of 68-year-old Ella Agibinik of Unalakleet and 75-year-old Dan Takak of Shaktoolik were pulled from the water. Agibinik and Takak had left to hunt for wild bird […]

  • On-Air

    Reality Check w/ John Tracy: Will Sen. Dan Sullivan protect Alaskans’ health care?

    by John Tracy on May 26, 7:44

    The so-called American Health Care Act passed by the U.S. House last month will not be the bill that passes through the Senate. The Obamacare replacement, as written by the House, would cost Alaskans more than anyone else in the country. Thousands of Alaskans who are forced to buy coverage on the exchange market would […]