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Fire destroys cabin of New Hampshire man living off-the-grid, prompts investigation by State Fire Marshal

By Setareh Jalali

David Lidstone, 81, lived in the woods of New Hampshire off I-93 in a small cabin for 27 years. The quintessential off-the-grid man, complete with a long white beard to rival Gandalf’s, Lidstone was completely self-sufficient. He cut his own firewood, installed solar panels on the roof of his cabin, and grew his own food. He even got clean water from a nearby stream.  

After three decades however, the owner of the land, Leonard Giles of South Burlington, Vermont filed a complaint that accused Lidstone of being a squatter. Giles sought to tear down the cabin, that is until yesterday when the cabin was found burnt to ground in a fire that is now being investigated by the State Fire Marshal’s Office.  

Prior to the fire, Lidstone argued that Giles, 86, gave him verbal permission to stay on the land years ago. Giles claims that he didn’t even know Lidstone was there until a town administrator found out in 2015 and told him.  

The small A-frame cabin Lidstone was inhabiting, prior to the fire. Courtesy of Jodie Gedeon | AP

According to his complaint filed in 2016, Giles expressed concern about septic waste disposal and possible zoning violations. Giles was planning on tearing the cabin down prior to the fire.  

On July 15 Lidstone was arrested on a civil contempt sanction and has been jailed since. He was offered the chance to be released if he agreed to vacate the property, but he refused, telling a judge in a court appearance Wednesday, “I’ll sit here with your uniform on until I rot, sir.” 

Jodie Gedeon, an avid kayaker, befriended Lidstone about 20 years ago and has been supporting him through the ordeal by organizing a petition drive and collecting money to cover property taxes.  

“He’s just a really, really, big caring guy, and just chooses to live off the grid,” she said in an interview with AP last week. “He’s not hurting anybody.” 

The Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Andrew Schulman agreed that Lidstone wasn’t hurting anyone but said that the law was on the landowner’s side and that it would be an uphill battle to try and argue against it.  

Lidstone, a U.S. Air Force veteran and a father of four, has been known to invite kayakers and boaters into his home, sharing stories about his life in the woods, according to the Associated Press. He’s originally from Wilton, Maine.

The Associated Press reached two of his three sons, who said they haven’t been in touch with their father recently. His daughter didn’t respond to a request for comment.  

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