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Semantics dominate day 10 of Sockeye Fire trial

Trial begins for those accused in starting the 2015 fire better known as the Sockeye Fire that...
Trial begins for those accused in starting the 2015 fire better known as the Sockeye Fire that ravaged over 72 acres in the Willow area. (KTUU)
Published: May. 4, 2017 at 3:42 PM AKDT
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For the second day in a row, the defense's structure fire expert was back on the stand to testify in the Sockeye Fire trial.

On Thursday, to the surprise of many, cross-examination and rebuttal of private investigator Brian Balega only lasted about an hour.

Balega was called by the defense to review the Division of Forestry's investigation, an investigation which both he and the defense argue is flawed. Balega points specifically to a generator shed, among other things located on the Imig property, which he says should have been considered as a potential ignition.

An issue prosecutor Senta addressed in cross examination.

"Were you aware, I mean, turning to the next page in the report, that they classified the generator shed, which is a shed, as structure and not equipment," said Senta.

Balega responded saying, "I knew it was classified as a shed. Correct."

"So you knew forestry classified it as a structure and ruled it out," Senta said. "And you testified on direct, that you're criticizing them for not calling it equipment use, when they call it in their report, on the very next page, a structure."

Despite the short day in court, Assistant District Attorney Eric Senta didn't waste time questioning the credibility of the defense's structure fire expert during cross examination.

Throughout cross examination, Senta pointed out to the jury that in Balega's report, he claimed to have only visited the Imig property once to investigate, even though he said in court he visited three times. Senta also addressed the accuracy of a diagram produced by Balega, as well as pictures taken at the scene, which were used in his investigation.

Court will resume Monday at 9 a.m. in Palmer. At that time, the defense will likely call it's second expert to the stand, a wildfire investigator from Washington.