Trial on hold in Big Lake fire lawsuit

Posted: Monday, March 24, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Big Lake fire civil trial is taking two weeks off.

The trial that started at the end of February began a scheduled break Friday to allow for spring vacations after attorneys for property owners wrapped up their evidence phase. The trial resumes April 7, when state attorneys will begin questioning witnesses.

The class-action lawsuit involves more than 1,000 people who say the state Division of Forestry allowed a 1996 fire to escape and grow into a raging inferno that destroyed more than 400 structures.

On Friday, Anchorage Superior Court Judge John Reese reminded jurors not to discuss the case with anyone and to ignore all media accounts. The case is expected to last several more weeks.

Reese urged jurors to hold off on decisions until they have heard from both sides.

''You're just going to have to wait to make sense of it all until you have all the information,'' he said.

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