Sockeye Fire suspect takes the stand to defend herself

Published: May. 8, 2017 at 5:13 PM AKDT
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One of the suspects charged with starting the Sockeye Wildfire took the stand in her own defense.

On Monday, for about 3-hours, a sometimes emotional Amy DeWitt, told the jury her story of what happened on June 15, 2015.

"It was scary as hell," said DeWitt. "Everyone of us went through the same thing."

DeWitt claims on the day of the fire, the suspected burn pit, which the Division of Forestry has identified as the origin of the fire, showed no signs of burning.

"I don't think anybody can be 100 percent sure of anything," testified DeWitt. "It was the coldest, smallest pit. These other two were larger fires and longer burning and it never made sense to me. It was a cold fire Sunday afternoon."

Although during cross-examination, DeWitt acknowledged that no tools were used to make sure the fire was out and that nobody had obtained a burn permit.

Dewitt says within a minute of spotting the fire, she called 9-1-1. Five minutes later, DeWitt, her then 17-year old son, and now husband Greg Imig loaded into their RV to escape the quickly advancing flames, saying there was nothing anyone could have done to slow the fire down.

"We needed to go," DeWitt testified. "It was very fast."

DeWitt wasn't the only person called to the stand Monday by the defense. Chris Warren, an independent wildland fire investigator specializing in origin and cause, was brought in to review the division of forestry's investigation.

Warren said the state's evidence lacked detail, documentation and is insufficient. When asked if he could have arrived at any conclusions as a result of the state's evidence, he said, "based on the documentation evidence that was provided to us, no, we could not. We felt that there was not enough information to arrive at a conclusion."

The trial continues Tuesday at 9 a.m. in Palmer.