Fire claims part of house on Port Republic early Thursday

The side streets surrounding Port Republic Street were lined with fire engines, police cars and the vehicles of off-duty firefighters who raced to the scene of a fire early Thursday.

Beaufort and Burton firefighters were called about 7:30 a.m. to reports of smoke and flames shooting from a two-story waterfront home near the intersection of Port Republic and East streets.

Lt. Dan Byrne, spokesman for the Beaufort Fire Department, said it appears to have started in the second story or in the attic of the home.

The fire was called in by a passerby who said he saw smoke rising from the eaves of the home and flames visible through a large window in the front of the house, Byrne said. The homeowners are on vacation and were notified of the fire.

The 3,344-square-foot home, built in 1972, is owned by Earl McMillen III, according to county property records. McMillen is the founder of McMillen Yachts, a business with offices in Beaufort and Newport, R.I., that specializes in restoring and selling vintage yachts. Property records had the market price of the home last year listed as $936,900. Attempts to reach McMillen were unsuccessful.

Firefighters are investigating the fire's cause, but believe it to be accidental, Byrne said.