Electrical fires are an ongoing problem for us all. Unfortunately, they even affect the most treasured of properties. It seems like no matter the amount of care and time put into maintaining the aesthetics of culturally important properties, problems can still occur behind the walls with the electrical wiring.

Elvis PresleyThe latest culturally important property to fall victim to an electrical fire is Elvis Presley’s first home in Memphis. The fire has caused an estimated $100,000 worth of damage according to fire officials.

History of 1034 Audubon Drive

The house was built by Howard Handwerker, its first owner, in 1952 and Elvis bought the property with the royalties of his first hit Heartbreak Hotel in 1956: a time when Howard was experiencing money problems.

Elvis made several modifications to the home during his stay. This included having fences and a brick wall installed and the addition of the famous garden pool. Although he only lived in the house for just over a year, it was the biggest year of Elvis’ life and this house is where he became a national celebrity.

The brick and iron wall, added to with security guards, did little to curb the amount of fans gathering outside the house. In May 1957, the privacy problems got so bad that the Presley family moved to Graceland.

Following the Presley’s tenancy, the house had several owners before it was purchased by avid Elvis fans Mike Freeman and Cindy Hazen. Although not much had changed to the property since Elvis left, the couple made it their goal to restore the property to how it looked when Elvis owned it. Once completed, they opened it up to fans for tours.

In 2006, the couple sold the property to Mike Curb for $1 million. It has been gifted to Memphis’ Rhodes College and has been continuously restored but no longer acts as a tourist attraction like Graceland.


Burnt plug socket

Burned American plug socket

The blaze in the unoccupied house has been attributed to an overloaded outlet in the living and dining room area. The full damage of the fire hasn’t yet been announced but it is likely that the main living and kitchen area will have been severely charred and blackened.

Thankfully none of the treasured artefacts were in the property at the time of the fire. The furniture had been moved days before the fire to a temporary storage unit on the driveway, while workers repaired damage from a pipe leak.

Preventing the electrical fire

Although there are obvious calls for properties such as this to be kept in pristine condition and left just the way they were, there are areas such as the electrics that need to be updated to prevent events like this.

Aesthetically, Elvis’ first home was kept in immaculate condition over the years, but behind the walls, having been built in the 1950s, the house is likely to have had old wiring.

Overloaded socket

Most electrical fires are caused by faulty electrical outlets: damaged, old plug sockets can cause electric shocks, burns and fires. Here is some advice to avoid overloading sockets:

  • Only use one extension lead per socket
  • Have additional sockets installed into a room if you are regularly using extension leads
  • Extension leads have a limit to the number of amps they can take, so check how much your lead can manage. Remember, different appliances use different amounts of power

Warning signs of overloaded sockets:

  • Burning smell near an appliance or socket
  • Sparks or smoke coming from a plug
  • Blackened marks around a socket

The best way to keep any property safe from electrical fires is to have the electrical system inspected by a qualified electrician. And, if necessary, have the home rewired.

The electrical renovation of historic properties requires a high level of skill in all aspects of work. Carrying out an electrical refit within a historic property often requires a significantly different approach, presenting a set of different challenges to a new or modern build.

Eaton Electrical specialise in offering bespoke electrical installations in heritage and culturally important buildings. Call us to arrange a free consultation on 01509 414 222.