Iditarod icon DeeDee Jonrowe took the stand Wednesday in the Sockeye fire trial. Hers was among the 55 homes lost in the more than 7000-acre blaze.


“My house was reduced to three inches of ash and an eight-foot hole,” Jonrowe told the jury.


Jonrowe was one of five sockeye fire victims called to the stand on the ninth day of the trial against Greg Imig and Amy DeWitt, the couple accused of starting the fire from an unattended burn pit.


Each victim testified about the first moments they realized the wildfire was, quite literally, too close to home.


Jonrowe told the jury about her struggle to grab whatever she could and evacuate her 40 sled dogs.


“We couldn’t get them all and my elderly leader, he had been retired for a few years, Python, we couldn’t find him. He was scared and he perished in the fire,” Jonrowe said.


Emotions were high in the Palmer courtroom; Judge David Zwink even ruling to exclude evidence he said could lead to unfair prejudice.


“I think it is fair to say that no matter how these come out, the pain is going to be significant,” Zwink said.


As this trial moves into its second week, the prosecution was told to remember that emotion is not the base for a criminal case.


Shortly after hearing from Jonrowe, the state put its case to rest, meaning prosecutors finished providing their evidence against Imig and DeWitt to the court.


Immediately after, the defense asked the judge to overturn three reckless endangerment charges against Greg Imig and Amy DeWitt.


That motion was denied.


It’s now the defense’s turn to call witnesses to the stand.


They started Wednesday afternoon with private fire investigator Brian Belega, who previously worked for the Anchorage Fire and Police Departments.


The defense also plans to call an out-of-state fire investigator to testify.


Imig’s attorney, Philip Shanahan, told the jury that the information they will hear over the next couple days will show the the cause of the Sockeye Fire is undetermined because of poor investigation practices by the state, and that the fire did not originate from a burn pit on Imig’s property.


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