Retired dentist dies in unexplained fire

A former Coupeville dentist was killed in a fire at his Central Whidbey Island home early Saturday morning.

Michael Nieder was 67 years old, according to the Island County Coroner’s Office.

Oak Harbor Fire Chief Ray Merrill is investigating the cause of the blaze. He said Tuesday that it will likely be ruled undetermined because the extent of the fire damage makes it difficult to find clues.

There is no evidence of foul play or arson, according to both Merrill and Detective Rick Felici, of the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

Lt. Jen Porter with Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue said firefighters had trouble finding the house fire at the somewhat isolated site on North Bluff Road.

The blaze was first reported by residents on Camano Island just after 1 a.m.

Porter said the two-story house with a daylight basement was “heavily involved” on the first floor when firefighters arrived.

Porter said it took most of the night to extinguish the fire and put out the hot spots. Nieder’s dog was found safe outside of the home.

Merrill said firefighters soon realized that Nieder, the sole resident of the home, was missing. Starting at about 8 a.m., the sheriff’s office conducted a search of the perimeter and beach, but didn’t find anyone.

Nieder’s body was located in the home’s shell that afternoon. He died as a result of the house fire, according to Coroner Robert Bishop.

Merrill said the 2,500-square-foot home was completely destroyed.

He said it appears that the fire started in the daylight basement, which had a wood stove and a lot of storage.