General Crime

* San Jose Man Channing Verden Pleads Not Guilty To Charges Of Starting 2008 Summit Fire

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A Los Gatos landscape contractor pleaded not guilty today to one felony count of unlawfully causing a fire for allegedly failing to fully extinguish piles of burning debris that sparked the weeklong Summit Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains in 2008.Channing Parker Verden, 50, of Los Gatos, was arrested in April by investigators from Cal Fire and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office after an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Summit Fire that erupted May 22, 2008.The fire blazed through the area, consuming 4,270 acres of brush and timber and 132 structures and outbuildings. High winds and dry conditions spread the flames rapidly through a 5-mile stretch along Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. The blaze evacuated homes, closed schools and took firefighters seven days to contain.Documents and statements filed with the district attorney’s office allege that the owner of the property at 31000 Summit Road hired Verden to clear debris on the land later identified as the origin of the fire. Cal Fire investigators found remains of large burn piles that did not appear to be extinguished properly.Verden is scheduled to return to Santa Clara County Superior Court on June 30 for the setting of a preliminary hearing.

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