Woodland hermit's cabin fire leads to state investigation

Cabin lived in by 81-year-old off-the-grid hermit for 30 years BURNS DOWN three weeks after he was arrested for ‘squatting on private land’

  • New Hampshire fire officials are investigating a blaze that completely destroyed a cabin located in the woods near the Merrimack River
  • The cabin, which David Lidstone has lived in for nearly 30 years, collapsed on itself during the fire on Wednesday
  • Officials say the blaze had also spread to the nearby woods 
  • The cabin is currently the subject of a property dispute between Lidstone, also known as River Dave, and the the landowner, who considers him a squatter
  • Lidstone is currently in jail on a civil contempt sanction and says he would rather stay there than give up his home
  • It is unclear if Lidstone was made aware of the blaze, and whether he will now leave jail, given that his home has been destroyed 

An elderly hermit lauded as a folk hero after saying he’d rather stay in jail than give up his cabin on land he is accused of squatting on has lost his home to a fire.   

The cabin, located in the woods of New Hampshire near the Merrimack River, burned down on Wednesday while its occupant David Lidstone, 81, was jailed on a civil contempt sanction following a dispute about him staying in the property. 

Firefighters are investigating the cause of the blaze, which destroyed the cabin. Dave’s cousin Horace Clark says he isn’t sure if his elderly relative has been told about the blaze, and doesn’t know if the news will finally prompt him to end his jailhouse protest. 

He fears the destruction of the cabin will send Lidstone, who has been in jail since July 15, to his grave.

Clark, who lives in rural Vermont, told DailyMail.com ‘I am angry as hell. He’s a tough cookie – but if this doesn’t kill him, nothing will. He lived there for 27 years, and had a verbal agreement. But there’s no such thing as a gentleman’s agreement these days.

‘We have our priorities all wrong – we have these mobs that are getting away with burning down cities and attacking people, but a little guy in the woods cant be left alone.’ 

Clark added: ‘He’s an 81 year-old man. If he’d just been left in peace, this problem would have resolved itself in another 10 or 20 years.’  

David Lidstone’s cabin – currently at the center of an ownership dispute that has landed its 81 year-old occupant in jail – burned down Wednesday, while Lidstone was behind bars 

Lidstone has lived off-the-grid at the shack for 27 years, but was jailed after landowner Leonard Giles took action to evict him from his home  

Lidstone, pictured, has become a folk hero as news of his property dispute has spread – although calls for him to be allowed to stay at his property are now moot given its destruction

Lidstone, nicknamed River Dave, was arrested last month over accusations of squatting on the property, which is owned by Vermont man Leonard Giles, 86, and was told he’d be freed if he agreed to leave the cabin. 

‘He holds the keys to the jailhouse in his hands,’ Judge Andrew Schulman said. 

‘He can open the door and leave whenever he’d like. All he has to do is agree to abide by the court’s prior orders.’

But he refused to do so, ended up in jail as a result – and became a national celebrity, even winning over fans who admired what they said was a principled stance.    

According to Canterbury Fire Chief Michael Gamache, crews responded to the cabin around 2.27pm Wednesday after receiving reports of heavy smoke in the area.  

Upon arrival, they saw a significant smoke condition in the area, as well as a large plume of smoke rising a distance into the woods. Officials said the access road was not accessible using a fire truck. 

Canterbury crews, utilizing their off-road UTV made access to the cabin which was engulfed in flames and had mostly collapsed upon itself. The nearby woods were on fire as well. 

Firefighters’ initial focus was to extinguish the fire that was progressing in the woods before turning their attention to Lidstone’s home.

The blaze was fully extinguished by 2.30pm. 

Officials say no one was in the cabin at the time of the fire. Most of Lidstone’s possessions had been taken out of the property before the blaze. 

It is unclear what caused the blaze, with firefighters investigating. Lidstone’s cousin Horace Clark says he fears news of the property’s destruction will kill his elderly relative  

‘The investigation is ongoing,’ Chief Gamache told DailyMail.com, noting that responding officials collected forensic evidence and are now evaluating local surveillance footage and conducting interviews with people involved in the land ownership dispute.        

Lidstone, a US Air Force veteran and father of four, lived on a woodlot located a few miles from Interstate 93 north of the state’s capitol city of Concord. 

He told a judge during a Wednesday court appearance that he had no desire to comply with the order to leave the cabin. Most of his possessions were removed from it before the fire.’

Lidstone’s cabin before it was destroyed. News of his story has spread across the US, sparking calls for him to be allowed to live out the remainder of his days in peace  

Lidstone allegedly had the property’s formal owner allowing him to be there, Chief Gamache explained. 

To the fire chief’s knowledge, the current property owner had previously expressed concerns over Lidstone’s presence.

DailyMail.com has contacted the town manager for more information on the property dispute and is waiting for a response. 

Lidstone’s off-the-grid lifestyle has made him a folk hero in northern New England, and news of the cabin fire led to sadness and empathy among his supporters.

Source: Read Full Article