A passerby saw flames coming from a chimney before the homeowner even know there was a fire Friday, Oct. 11, Zionsville Fire Department officials said.

The passerby called 911 and firefighters saw smoke as they approached 11636 Willow Springs Drive, Zionsville, at about 1:45 p.m., and they had water on the fire by 2 p.m., according to county dispatch records.

A mail carrier, a neighbor, and Zionsville Fire Battalion Chief David Kail banged on the door and got no answer, so firefighters crashed through a door to get at the fire, Kail said Monday.

The homeowner was trying to leave at the same time, but seeing the fire crew rushing into his house was the first he knew that he had a fire, Kail said.

He had started a fire in the basement fireplace and flames were shooting out of the chimney that spanned from the basement to two stories above, Kail said.

The cause and origin of the fire are under investigation, but authorities believe debris in the chimney, such as a bird’s nest or creosote, caught fire because the house is seven years old and the chimney had never been cleaned, Kail said.

Kail recommends having a chimney sweep inspect chimneys annually and cleaning them when warranted to prevent fires. Newer homes tend to have chimneys built with a wood box and masonry veneer, instead of being made of fireproof masonry as in the past. The look like regular chimneys, Kail said, but the chimney flue travels through the wood box and can fail and ignite the box when the heat becomes too great.

ZFD officials estimated damage to the home and its contents as high as $75,000.

No one was injured, authorities reported.

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