A north Minneapolis couple were found dead Tuesday evening after firefighters responded to a call of black smoke billowing from their front picture window.

"There was smoke damage throughout the house," Battalion Fire Chief Mike Dahlberg said of the single-story home at 2940 Washburn Av. N. "Once the crews got in there, they did find some fire. It was contained to the living room."

The couple, found in the bedroom of their home, were identified by a next-door neighbor as Genie Caldwell, 49, and Jeffrey J. Howard, 48.

Most likely, officials said, the couple died from smoke inhalation, but that will be determined by the Hennepin County medical examiner's office.

The cause of the fire, reported just before 6:30 p.m., remained under investigation.

Arson investigators' preliminary findings suggest that the fire was not electrical and there was no carbon monoxide leaking from a stove, furnace or water heater, Dahlberg said.

He also said there was no evidence of a gas leak.

Trevor Kvarnlov, 30, who lives next door to the couple, said he was leaving for work at 7:30 a.m. when he heard a "beeping sound."

He couldn't tell where it was coming from, he said, adding that "I didn't think anything of it."

Firefighters didn't hear any beeping when they arrived, but they did find a smoke detector, Dahlberg said. If the detector was battery-operated, he said, it's quite possible that the batteries could have been worn down if it had been beeping for hours.

Howard was a remodeler and Caldwell was a driving instructor, Kvarnlov said.

He described them as friendly, noting that Howard often used his snowblower to clear neighborhood driveways and shoveled walks for neighbors.

On Monday, Howard had asked him how to cook Swedish sausage that Kvarnlov had made from his immigrant grandparents' recipe. Howard had planned to make it with sauerkraut on Tuesday.

Howard had three adult sons, according to his family.

Joy Powell • 612-673-7750