Tree Fire

Seasonal Safety: WPI Fire Protection Engineering Researchers Show the Dangers of a Dry and Neglected Christmas Tree

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In an effort to raise awareness about fire safety during the holiday season, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is asking people to watch what can happen when a Christmas Tree is not properly maintained.

This dramatic video, filmed in 2016 in WPI’s state-of-the-art Fire Protection Engineering Lab, shows just how rapid and intense a dry tree can burn. Fire protection engineers constructed a mock living room setup, complete with furniture, rug, curtains, and a decorated Christmas tree. Cameras were rolling when the dry tree was exposed to a flame. Within 25 seconds, the branches were fully engulfed and within another 10 seconds, fire had spread to the ceiling and to nearby furnishings. The entire room was thick with fire and smoke, and flashover occurred within 63 seconds.

Watch: How long does it take a Christmas tree to ignite?

Avoid a Holiday Hazard: WPI Demonstrates Christmas Tree Safety with a Live Burn

Christmas Tree Safety Tips

 

Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur they are often serious.  According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire departments in the United States responded to an estimated average of 200 home structure  fires per year that began with Christmas trees in 2011–2015. These fires caused an annual average of 6 civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries, and $14.8 million in direct property damage. The NFPA has a number of safety tips and resources for a fire-safe holiday season, such as keeping your tree at least three feet away from any heat source and turning off lights before going to bed or leaving the house. 

 

Media: Please contact Colleen Wamback at 508-831-6775 to receive broadcast-quality footage of the tree burn or to schedule an interview with a WPI fire protection engineering expert.

63 Seconds: Images from WPI's Christmas Tree Burn

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WPI Fire protection engineering researchers show the dangers of a dry and neglected tree.
WPI fire protection engineering staff ignite the dry Christmas tree.

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Fire protection engineering researchers show the dangers of a dry and neglected tree.
Within 25 seconds, the branches were full engulfed.

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Fire protection engineering researchers show the dangers of a dry and neglected tree.
Ten seconds later, the flames spread to nearby furnishings.

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Fire protection engineering researchers show the dangers of a dry and neglected tree.
Flashover (the simultaneous ignition of directly exposed combustible material in a space) occurs 63 seconds later.

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Fire protection engineering researchers show the dangers of a dry and neglected tree.
WPI fire protection engineering researchers extinguish the blaze.

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WPI's Christmas tree burn
The fire completely destroyed the staged living room.

WPI's Fire Protection Engineering Lab

The Christmas tree burn was held in WPI’s state-of-the-art Fire Protection Engineering Laboratory—one of the most sophisticated fire science laboratories in the nation with one overarching mission: to enable researchers to set things on fire and study how they burn. Since then the lab has played host to faculty and student researchers who are advancing the study of fire science by learning more about the burning characteristics of materials and structures, and applying their findings to help make the world a safer place.

More from the Christmas Tree Burn

WPI Christmas Tree Burn Interview: Worcester Fire Deputy Chief John Sullivan

Worcester Fire Deputy Chief John Sullivan says the demonstration illustrates how quickly these types of fire can spread.

WPI Christmas Tree Burn Interview: Dan Arthur

Fire Protection Engineering student Dan Arthur explains why the staged Christmas tree burn really hit home to him.

WPI Christmas Tree Burn Interview: Ray Ranellone

Ray Ranellone, Fire Protection Engineering Lab Manager, explains why a dried out tree can be a significant fire hazard.