Fire destroys North Whidbey wood shop

A professional woodworker living on North Whidbey lost his shop, 40 years worth of tools and a pile of boards from a 300-year-old tree to a Nov. 29 fire.

Karl Nielsen isn’t sure now whether he’ll return to the woodworking business.

The fire started after Nielsen lit a fire in the shop’s wood stove and then went to the house to maker dinner. His wife first noticed the smoke. She called the fire department while he got the hose, but the fire was too big for him to handle.

Nielsen said the response from the firefighters, most of whom are volunteers, was amazing. North Whidbey Fire and Rescue responded with six engines, a tender, an aid unit, a rescue unit and a command car, as well as 27 firefighters. Oak Harbor Fire Department, the Navy fire department and Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue provided mutual aid, according to Battalion Chief Chris Swiger.

The shop is only part of an old barn, which Nielsen said measured about 120 by 26 feet. The section with the wood shop had heavily involved in fire when firefighters arrived.

Firefighters mounted an aggressive attack on the blaze with multiple handlines and were able to stop the fire before it extended into the rest of the building, Swiger said in a press release.

The crews worked for hours overhauling the building because of the heavy fuel load in the shop. The fire was under control by 7:19 p.m. and crews cleared the scene at 12:03 a.m.

No one was injured in the fire. Nielsen said it likely started at the wood stove.

Nielsen said he lost boards, tools and machinery, all of which were worth tens of thousands of dollars. Among his collection of boards was some Garry oak that came from an ancient tree near the Whidbey Playhouse.

Nielsen said his backup plan, if he decides to continue woodworking, is to create a small shop in his garage with a few tools. Working with wood, he said, “gets under your skin.” Nielsen trained out East in furniture making. and is known for making pieces that have curved forms.

Nielsen said he’s thankful that part of the old building was saved, though he’ll have to shore it up for the winter. It’s been in his wife’s family since the 1940s when Norma and Robbie Mitchell started an enormous turkey farm on North Whidbey. The building was originally a brooder house, but Nielsen converted into a woodshed in the 1980s.

“I was always afraid of this happening,” he said. “There are a lot of combustibles.”

Photo by Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
                                North Whidbey resident Karl Nielsen examines a board inside his wood shop that was destroyed by a Nov. 29 fire.

Photo by Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times North Whidbey resident Karl Nielsen examines a board inside his wood shop that was destroyed by a Nov. 29 fire.

More in News

Glaiza Price, who owns and operates Cosmic Ice Cream with her husband Patrick, peeks out the van’s window. The space-themed van has started popping up at events this year to serve 24 flavors of soft serve ice cream. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times
‘Out of this world’ ice cream rolls onto island

An encounter with an ice cream van in New York, a conversation… Continue reading

County finishing Freeland zone code

Staff from Island County Planning and Community Development will hold a community… Continue reading

Left to right: Eva Wirth, Emma Callahan, Chloe Goethel, Macie Vande Werfhorst, Naomi Atwood, Gabe Gandarias, Maddox Smith-Heacox & Max Rodriguez. Not pictured: Emmett Layman, Zander Kuschnerei and coach Clyde Monma.
SW Middle School Math Teams Capture 5 Medals

South Whidbey Middle School entered five teams in the Washington State Math… Continue reading

WhidbeyHealth nurses trained to assess victims of sexual assault are left to right: Jackie Blankenship, Rebecca Pina, program manager Jackie Bassett, Jacqueline Moore and Sherry Phay. Cynde Robinson, director of Coalition against Domestic Violence, is in the back row. Team member nurses Krista Burckhardt, Gayle Wallen and Tonya DeYoung were unavailable for the photo.
Sexual assault victims can be assessed locally

WhidbeyHealth trains specialty nurse team

Aurora Coffey
South Whidbey High School student wins AAUW prize

South Whidbey High School student, Aurora Coffey, won First Place and a… Continue reading

Town talk pinpoints people and paths

Langley takes step in mapping trails

Langley Police Chief David Marks
Prosecutor declines to charge chief

The Island County prosecutor declined to charge Langley Police Chief David Marks… Continue reading

Island County looks at building air park road

Island County will apply for a grant to study the potential of… Continue reading

Photo provided 
                                Left to right: Grace Callahan, Carli Newman, Oliana Stang, Sean Miles, Magnus Nyberg, Max Rodriguez, Aidan O’Brien, Annika Hustad (Not pictured: Coach Clyde Monma)
SW High School math teams place 1st in state

Three South Whidbey High School math teams earned a trip to the… Continue reading

Most Read