WATERVILLE — A fire that heavily damaged a house Friday night on Paris Street in the city’s South End was caused by an inadequately covered hole in a chimney that formerly had a stove pipe attached to it on the home’s first floor, according to fire Capt. John Gromek.

Firefighters were sent to the home of John Fyler at 9 Paris St. at 7:51 p.m. Fyler, who lived alone, was not at home, but fire officials were able to find him and he arrived at the scene a while later, according to Gromek. A cat died in the fire, Gromek said.

He said the home had a working wood stove in the basement.

“It was an accidental fire that was caused by an old thimble for an old wood stove that was not in use — a capped-over opening in the chimney,” Gromek said Saturday morning.

Gromek, who was at the scene Friday night, said in older homes when people stopped using a stove pipe hole, they would insert a thimble, a round tube going into the chimney, and cover over it with metal. That metal and the wood or other material placed over it got hot and caught fire in this case.

About 25 firefighters from Waterville and Winslow worked at the scene, and Fairfield and Winslow firefighters covered the fire station, Gromek said.

Fyler, 56, was insured and is being helped by the American Red Cross, according to Gromek. Fyler is staying with his brother in Monmouth, he said.

The home’s first floor is extensively damaged and there is some damage to the second floor, according to Gromek. The house sustained heavy smoke damage, he said.

The fire was not particularly difficult to fight, he said.

“We got control of it fairly quickly, ” he said. “We were just there doing investigation work for a couple of hours afterward.”

Firefighters left the scene at 11:50 p.m., he said.

Jeremy Damren, an investigator with the Office of the State Fire Marshal, was at the scene Saturday morning helping to determine the fire’s cause.

Gromek recommended that homeowners ensure that unused chimney openings are safe.

“I would suggest people … have a mason or chimney sweep check it and do any necessary repairs to make it safer,” he said.

Around 10 a.m. Saturday, Paris Street was quiet except for the sound of crows cawing and distant church bells playing “Oh, Holy Night.” Yellow fire-scene tape was tied from a chain link fence on the west side of the driveway to a storm door on the house porch. On the east side of the house, windows had been broken out and were covered with particle board and part of the exterior siding was ripped off, exposing gray shingles.

The house is next to a vacant lot that was the site of an apartment house fire on Feb. 23, 2015, that destroyed the building and left 12 people homeless. That five-unit apartment building was razed last year, and the lot on which it stood is for sale, according to a sign posted there.

Paris Street is a short street off the south end of Water Street, near Grove Street, where homes are close together.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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Twitter: @AmyCalder17