Tree Fire

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

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

WPI fire protection engineering staff ignite the dry Christmas tree.

Within 25 seconds, the branches were full engulfed.

Ten seconds later, the flames spread to nearby furnishings.

Flashover (the simultaneous ignition of directly exposed combustible material in a space) occurs 63 seconds later.

WPI fire protection engineering researchers extinguish the blaze.

The fire completely destroyed the staged living room.

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