Accused Summit Fire starter gets new attorney

Channing Verden

After multiple delays, the case of a contractor charged with
starting the Summit Fire was again postponed while his new attorney
gets up to speed.
After multiple delays, the case of a contractor charged with starting the Summit Fire was again postponed while his new attorney gets up to speed.

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 more than 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 2 a.m. Sept. 22 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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