CANTERBURY, N.H. (WBZ NewsRadio) — The cabin of a New Hampshire man who has lived on a Canterbury woodlot on the Merrimack River for decades burned to the ground on Wednesday.
David Lidstone, known locally as "River Dave," said he's lived on the property for 27 years, and was allowed to stay there through a verbal agreement. Lidstone was arrested for refusing to leave the land in mid-July. The building was found in flames hours after a court hearing on Wednesday. The Manchester Union-Leader reported arson investigators and accelerant-sniffing dogs were on scene.
Town Administrator Ken Folsom told WBZ NewsRadio that firefighters had a tough time getting to the cabin because it's two miles back into the woods. The fire was first reported at around 3:30 PM. It took firefighters 15 minutes to get to the camp by off-road vehicle. By the time they got there, the cabin had completely collapsed to the ground.
Folsom said the town became aware of Lidstone's cabin on the property in 2015 and sent a letter to Leonard Giles, the owner, who lives in Vermont. The letter said the town had "areas of concern" with Lidstone's cabin because of the waste disposal and possible zoning violations of the camp.
Earlier in the day of the fire the 81-year-old defended himself in a court video hearing from Merrimack County jail, saying he would rather rot in jail than comply with an order to leave the camp and not return.
Merrimack Superior Court Judge Andrew R. Schulman later said his only choice was to return Lidstone to jail, but said he would only jail him for a maximum of 30 days and recommended Giles' lawyer and Lidstone find some way to keep him on the land, the Union-Leader reported.
Lidstone's arrest and jailing has caused a public outcry, with more than 4,300 people signing a petition to let him stay — almost twice the population of Canterbury itself. Several crowd-funding campaigns have also been started.
Folsom said the town thanks the public for their concern, but that this is a private dispute.
Written by Chaiel Schaffel