The New Hampshire State Fire Marshal’s Office said Thursday it has opened an investigation into a fire that destroyed a small cabin where an off-the-grid hermit had lived for almost three decades.
David Lidstone, 81, lived in the woods along the Merrimack River and was known by locals as “River Dave.” He was jailed on July 15 on a civil contempt sanction and was told he’d be released if he agreed to leave the cabin, which is on property owned by a Vermont man who considers Lidstone a squatter.
Fire destroyed the cabin on Wednesday afternoon. The fire marshal’s office said it is investigating the blaze, but deferred questions to the Canterbury Fire Department. Lt. Dave Nelson of Canterbury Fire said he expects the investigation to take a few days and there were no updates available about its cause on Thursday.
“We just had the fire yesterday, it takes a while,” Nelson said.
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Lidstone, who is originally from Maine, 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 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. Horace Clark, a cousin of Lidstone’s who lives in Vermont, said the fire was “both sad and sick.”