Defendant accused of starting Summit Fire awaits preliminary hearing

Channing Verden, 51

Attorneys hope to pin down a date to begin a preliminary hearing
by the end of the month for a Los Gatos contractor charged with
starting the Summit Fire.
Attorneys hope to pin down a date to begin a preliminary hearing by the end of the month for a Los Gatos contractor charged with starting the Summit Fire.

Cal Fire officials pinpointed brush piles at a property on the 31000 block of Summit Road that contractor Channing Verden, 51, was hired to burn as the source of the fire that raged for a week in May 2008, wiping out 4,270 acres and razing 132 structures. Fighting the fire cost more than $12 million. Verden has pleaded not guilty to one count of unlawfully causing a fire with an enhancement for causing multiple structures to burn.

Verden claimed innocence – citing gaps in the district attorney’s reports. As a victim of California wildfires himself, he’d be the last person to set a wildfire, he said.

Attorneys plan to set a date for Verden’s preliminary hearing 9:30 a.m. March 25 in Department 23 at the Hall of Justice in San Jose. Verden is currently out of custody and faces seven years in prison if convicted, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

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