Accused Summit Fire starter awaits preliminary hearing

Channing Verden, 51

After multiple delays, attorneys again postponed the case of a
contractor charged with starting the Summit Fire for another two
weeks.
After multiple delays, attorneys again postponed the case of a contractor charged with starting the Summit Fire for another two weeks.

Channing Verden, 51, of Los Gatos pleaded not guilty to one count of unlawfully causing a fire with an enhancement for causing multiple structures to burn after authorities arrested him almost a year ago.

Cal Fire officials pinpointed brush piles at a property on the 31000 block of Summit Road that Verden was hired to burn as the source of the Summit 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 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. April 8 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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