Man charged for starting 2008 Summit Fire

April 21, 2009 6:29:57 PM PDT
The Santa Clara County District Attorney's office believes it has found the man responsible for starting the devastating Summit Fire in May 2008.

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Channing Verden was arrested and charged with unlawfully causing a fire and causing multiple structures to burn. If convicted, Verden could be sentenced to seven years in prison.

CAL FIRE officials say Verden, a contractor who had been clearing a Summit Road property, was warned about fire danger, but took no precautions.

The Summit Fire burned 4,270 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains over seven days and destroyed 132 structures.

"There are certain precautions Mr. Verden should have taken to ensure that embers were out, fires were out, that there wasn't any standing piles of burning brush or timber there before they abandoned the scene," DA spokesperson Nick Munyo said.

Fire investigators say smoldering piles of vegetation were left unattended for weeks, but Verden will not be charged with arson.

"Arson of course, is deliberately starting a fire, that's not the case here; Mr. Verden is charged with unlawfully causing a fire, which has more to do with an act of omission than commission," Munyo said.

Fire victims are still recovering from their losses.

"Seven years, is that actually enough for starting a fire of this magnitude," resident Kenny Rich asked.

The DA says investigators have worked this case continuously over the past year.

"I think this was a case where there was so much damage, so much evidence, a case of law enforcement wanting to make sure that we dotted the "i's" and crossed the "t's" and did everything we possibly could before we made an arrest," Munyo said.

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