Caribou Hills fire case nearing settlement?

Posted: Sunday, November 25, 2007

Postponements continued Wednesday in the Kenai court case of the California man charged in the Caribou Hills wildfire that blackened more than 55,000 acres in June and destroyed at least 53 cabins.

District Court Judge Jennifer Wells scheduled the next trial call for Charles Partridge Jr. for Dec. 20, with a jury trial to begin sometime during the following week.

Reporting to the Kenai District Court telephonically with his client, Soldotna defense attorney Chuck Robinson told the court he had received a phone call from Kenai District Attorney June Stein on Wednesday morning discussing a possible settlement in the case.

"We're in the middle of negotiations," Robinson said. "It looks like this case will go away."

Partridge, 61, was cited by the Alaska Division of Forestry on June 26 with one count of uncontrolled spread of fire after sparks from a grinder he was using to sharpen a shovel June 19 ignited grass and the fire spread off the property where he was working, according to the charging document.

A former Soldotna resident, Partridge said he was helping build a cabin for his son in the Caribou Hills area east of Ninilchik.

High winds and low humidity fanned the blaze, at one time making it the number-one firefighting priority in the nation. It eventually burned at least 53 cabins and residences, 79 outbuildings and 55,648 acres of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Wilderness Area.

Firefighters worked more than two weeks to contain the fire and were demobilized July 6, when officials placed the fire in monitor status "to achieve resource benefits that are desirable and beneficial to the management" of the wilderness area, according to a forestry news release.

The new trial call hearing is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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