PALMER -- The Anchorage couple charged with starting the Willow-area Sockeye fire in June entered not guilty pleas Tuesday without making a court appearance as scheduled.
The fire destroyed 55 primary homes and dozens of other structures.
State fire investigators say Greg Imig, 59, and Amy Dewitt, 42, caused the wildfire by letting an unattended pile of burning yard debris escape into the forest from a property north of Willow that Imig co-owns. Charging documents said the couple, with Dewitt's son, fled the property as the fire grew, though Dewitt told investigators she called 911.
They were scheduled for an arraignment hearing Tuesday morning but on Monday filed paperwork to waive their right to an arraignment and consent to the hearing in absentia, according to a state court database.
Palmer Magistrate Judge Tara Logsdon set their next hearing for Aug. 21.
Several media outlets and two Alaska Division of Forestry fire managers showed up for the hearing. It didn't appear that any fire victims attended.
Imig, listed as a co-owner of Imig Audio/Video Inc. in Anchorage, is being represented by Kevin Fitzgerald. Dewitt is being represented by Philip Shanahan.
Neither attorney returned a request for comment Tuesday.
The Palmer district attorney is trying to reach more than 100 Willow property owners considered fire victims as part of the restitution process associated with the case against Imig and Dewitt. Victims need to contact the Palmer DA's office and fill out a three-page form with detailed damage information, insurance details if applicable, and documentation.
Tracking people down has proved challenging because of the scope of the fire and difficulty reaching owners of vacant property, said paralegal Sherese Miller, who attended the hearing Tuesday.
So far, just one victim has contacted the DA's office, Miller said.
"We've been reaching out but it is very hard," she said after the hearing. "The fire was very big."
Anyone seeking more information can contact the Palmer DA's office at 907-761-5648.
Imig and Dewitt face charges of second-degree criminally negligent burning and three counts of reckless endangerment, as well as failure to obtain a burn permit, burning without clearing the area, allowing the fire to spread and leaving the fire unattended.