The house fire on Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto that claimed the lives of two men Friday night was accidental and started in the kitchen, investigators determined.
Palo Alto officials announced Monday night that investigators from the city and from the regional Santa Clara County Arson Task Force concluded that the fire at 988 Embarcadero Road started in the kitchen and then spread to the rest of the house, ultimately engulfing about 50 percent of the 1,300-square-foot home. Because of extensive damage, investigators could not determine the exact origin of the fire. They did, however, find two possible ignition sources near the site of the fire's origin: an electrical appliance and cigarette-smoking materials.
The fire was reported at about 7:15 p.m. Firefighters arrived within four minutes and extinguished the fire within 10 minutes. By that time, however, the fire had claimed two victims: Donald Schoennauer and his best friend, Ed Martin, both 64. Officials found what they believe to be Martin's body in the kitchen and Schoennauer's in the living room, Nickel said.
"He probably didn't have the physical strength to get out of the house," Nickel said, referring to Schoennauer, whose mobility was limited by a physical condition.
Nickel told the Weekly officials believe that the many books, papers and other combustible materials found throughout the house contributed to the speed with which the fire had spread. Nickel said there was a "tremendous amount of combustibles in the house."
According to the city's announcement, the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office examined both victims Tuesday. While the coroner's investigation remains pending, officials had determined that "there is no indication of homicide or suicide."
Both men had graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1967.