BRENTWOOD — A Candia couple fired up over the smoke from their neighbors’ wood stove has filed a lawsuit claiming the smoke is so bad they’ve been forced to install air purifiers and seal their windows and doors to keep it out.
Charles and Brenda Wilbert are suing Brian and Kerri Johnson over smoke coming from the chimney at the Johnsons’ 54 Old Deerfield Road home that the Wilberts say is “excessive” and has deprived them of “almost complete use and enjoyment of their property,” according to papers filed in Rockingham County Superior Court.
The Wilberts said the smoke has worsened during the last two years, and at times has forced them to remain in certain areas of their home to avoid it.
The suit seeks an injunction to stop the Johnsons from burning wood, as well as unspecified monetary damages.
The Wilberts, who live at 60 Old Deerfield Road, claim they’ve brought their concerns to the Johnsons in writing and by phone and suggested solutions that included an offer to pay a portion of their heating oil bill if they agreed to use their furnace and not use the wood stove.
“The respondents (Johnsons) have an oil system as an alternative source of heat at their property. The use of the wood stove is not necessary as a form of heat,” the suit said.
The Johnsons have “steadfastly denied the existence of any problem with the wood smoke emissions from their property and have refused to take remedial action,” the suit said.
Kerri Johnson said she wasn’t aware of the lawsuit, but said the dispute with the Wilberts has existed for about two years and insisted that the smoke from their stove isn’t a problem. Johnson said the Wilberts are the only residents on the street who don’t burn wood and that the smoke blowing onto their property is coming from other homes.
Johnson also said that she and her husband run the stove properly and use well-seasoned wood that contains no chemicals that her husband cuts himself.
“We’re doing everything within reason,” she said.
The Wilberts, represented by Portsmouth attorney Derek Durbin, have taken steps to protect their property from the smoke, the suit said, but so far their efforts have “not abated the invasion of the wood smoke.”
Those efforts have included the purchase and installation of two $1,200 air purifiers, in addition to sealing all windows and exterior doors to their home to reduce the smoke problem.
The Wilberts claim they also spent $1,300 to have a carpenter seal a large exterior door on a schoolhouse next to their home.
The suit said the Johnsons have maintained that the wood stove existed on their property before they moved in, that the operation of the wood stove is allowed under local zoning laws, and that the prevailing winds are carrying smoke from other properties to the Wilberts’ residence.
According to the suit, the town’s health officer, David Murray, sent a letter to the Johnsons in March saying the smoke was “excessive” and posed a “health hazard.”
“In reaching this conclusion, he noted the ‘unique location’ of and the ‘choking’ of the chimney as the likely reasons for the excessive emission of wood smoke from the property,” the suit said.