Contractor Channing Verden arrested i...

Contractor Channing Verden arrested in connection with starting Summit Fire

There are 33 comments on the Santa Cruz Sentinel story from Apr 21, 2009, titled Contractor Channing Verden arrested in connection with starting Summit Fire. In it, Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that:

Fire fighters are dwarfed by the burned out skeletons of trees along Summit Road during last year's Summit Fire.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Santa Cruz Sentinel.

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Alviso, CA

#1 Apr 21, 2009
Wow, great news! I had doubts as to whether this would develop into anything. I seem to recall being viciously chewed out here, on a thread about the Summit fire, when I cited reports that mismanaged brush burning had caused the fire. I wonder whether it was this contractor posting! I'm glad to see some enforcement of the rules for burning brush as well. It's far too common for people to make huge (larger than allowed) burn piles at the end of the season, and to burn them on parts of their property where there is no water available. I've had tree guys volunteer to burn tree trimmings on the waterless parts of my property. They tell me they do it all the time. I never allow it. And the burning of non-cured brush and cuttings ... happens all the time.

United States

#3 Apr 21, 2009
"Later that month, a Cal Fire captain whose job duties include handling open burning permits along Summit Road, met with Verden. Verden again was advised the burning could only occur during the daytime and that someone must tend to the fire, and he was also told the debris piles were too large to burn as they stood, according to Price.

It's unclear what steps, if any, Verden took to comply with those regulations. Price would not say if any Cal Fire personnel checked the piles again."

I would like to know if Cal Fire checked the piles again. I would like to think they are following up on those kind of dangers, and I would like to know why more was not done on the second contact with Verden, why was he not cited at that time?

Santa Cruz, CA

#4 Apr 21, 2009
"...(M)easuring temperatures so high in these piles indicated there was no effort to extinguish the piles with water prior to any work crews leaving the job site over four weeks ago," Price wrote in her statement of probable cause.

So my question is, if the fire people told this guy to extinguish the fires, was there any response back to see that he had complied with that directive? From the above quote, it sounds like these piles continued to smolder for several weeks. Did fire not go back for nearly a month to check on this obvious hazzard? Not blaming fire folks, just curious
Fry Him

United States

#5 Apr 21, 2009
This bastard needs to be sent up for life. No mercy.
What I Heard

Watsonville, CA

#6 Apr 21, 2009
A local told me that the Fire Dept had been contacted several times about the smoldering piles. Why didn't they put it out and why aren't they held accountable?
Local Dave

United States

#7 Apr 21, 2009
Typical contractor, probably hates the government & doesn't think he has to follow the laws. I hope he goes to jail.
From Santa Cruz

Santa Clara, CA

#8 Apr 21, 2009
7 years in jail solves nothing. The experience alone is enough to make him not do it again, let alone his now ruined business. Community service to repay the debts accrued by his bad judgment sounds fine, but 7 years does nothing for society other than run up a thick prison tab. I vote for 16 hours of free labor, 42 weekends a year, for the next 3-7 years. He can use his skills as a contractor and help rebuild these houses, replant trees, maybe even work with the fire department. We'll get much more out of him that way than if we lock him up.
From Santa Cruz

Santa Clara, CA

#9 Apr 21, 2009
you gots to get down wrote:
God what an irresponsible jerk-if this is true he should get the maximum sentence.The people up there lost EVERYTHING!
Yeah, but two wrongs don't make a right.
Crime Crazy

Capitola, CA

#10 Apr 21, 2009
Hardly. This is a civil justice matter. What a bunch of crap. We can't profile terrorists or raise our voices to oppose child molesters but a guy who accidentally sparks a blaze, however, big, is a criminal?
Good Comment

Santa Cruz, CA

#11 Apr 21, 2009
Hey From Santa Cruz.

I agree with you 100%. Very refreshing perspective to read on these blogs. Jail only costs society more dough with no return. Well thought out.
Crime Crazy

Capitola, CA

#12 Apr 21, 2009
Fry Him wrote:
This **** needs to be sent up for life. No mercy.
You're a damned fool.
Aptos Resident

Windsor, CA

#13 Apr 21, 2009
Jesus people, cut the guy a break! I'm sure he didn't "set" the fires on purpose with the intent to burn down peoples houses.
B40 Burner

Santa Cruz, CA

#14 Apr 21, 2009
As much as people burn to get rid of excess brush to lessen the fire danger for all it only takes 1 person trying to take too much of a short cut to hurt many. Maybe the owner should be held partially responsible for not take out some of the brush sooner. Just drive around the hills and look around and you can see how few owners take it serious about keeping down the burnable material on their property. With all he trees that arer dying in the hills it's only getting to be worse. The county can't even afford to keep the edge of the road clear anymore. How come CAL FIRE didn't put out the fires with their tankers and charge the contractor for labor and water.
If they aren't going to be forceful about their rules, who is the next one to start a big fire?
verden burden

Santa Cruz, CA

#15 Apr 21, 2009
Verden should have been heavily fined the 2nd time Cal Fire responded & Cal Fire should have put out the fires at the same time!

Why did this not happen? Who in Cal Fire can be held accountable? Unless there's more to the story, it appears somebody besides Verden should lose their job.


#16 Apr 21, 2009
Are they sure he didn't start the fire with "Safe and Sane" fireworks he bought in Watsonville?
scape goat

Healdsburg, CA

#17 Apr 21, 2009
what a bunch of horse manuer. They need a fall guy and this is it. Once again everyone believes the senil and the cops. I bet this guy comes out on top with no conviction then he sues.
Westsider - another one

Santa Cruz, CA

#18 Apr 21, 2009
A year to figure out what was obvious from the beginning? I agree, jail time is too good for this kind of negligence. Put him on supervised labor for the rest of his life for all of the lives he is responsible for ruining.
IStartedAFireNow ImAFelon

Aptos, CA

#19 Apr 21, 2009
I don't get the idea that caging someone up like an animal at a cost of $35,000/year for 7 years is somehow going to make anything any better. It TOTALLY sounds to me like Verden messed up by not reducing the size of his burn piles when he was advised they were too large...that Cal Fire did nothing more than make a couple of visits to tell him to put out the fires when what they should have done is put the fires out themselves....and that the PROPERTY OWNER should have been notified by CAL FIRE that his contractor was in violation. Sheesh... The Summit Fire was entirely preventable because a government agency that was aware of violations did not continue to follow up until the fires were out....period.

Santa Rosa, CA

#20 Apr 21, 2009
I lost my house in the Summit Fire, and I have to admit that while I was pissed off for a long time at the negligence (we all knew where it started from day one), now that I see this dude's picture in the paper I just feel... sorry for him. He was a complete dip**it, no doubt, but he didn't intend it.

He should be held accountable, but prison doesn't help anyone. If anything, he ought to be put to work coming up on our properties and helping get our lives back together. It ought to cost him, but I'll take payment in work and materials over paying for prison.

Los Gatos, CA

#21 Apr 21, 2009
I live in the Summit area and he should serve some jail time. People could have been killed. He was purposely negligent. Taking the cheap way out to clear this property. At least 2 years of jail time and community service when released.

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