Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Fire Hazards of Dry Versus Watered Christmas Trees



Matthew S. Hoehler, Matthew F. Bundy, Laurean A. DeLauter, Robin L. Materese, Leon Gerskovic, Jose R. Garcia


These experiments were designed to examine the difference in fire hazard between a dry Christmas tree and a watered Christmas tree for fire safety awareness. One dry tree (no water after harvesting) and one watered tree was tested with no replicates. The test specimens were approximately 2.1 m (7 ft.) tall Douglas fir trees cut fresh from a local Maryland tree farm approximately four weeks prior to testing. The watered tree was placed in a bucket of water within 3 hours of being harvested and a fresh cut was made approximately 50 mm (2 in.) from the base of the trunk prior to placement in the water. Both the dry tree and watered tree were stored indoors until the day of the test. For fire testing, each tree was placed in a mockup of a corner of a living room constructed to provide background for video recording and not to replicate a specific or typical living room. The ignition source was a book of matches with the match heads wrapped with a thin nickel- chromium wire that heats, igniting the matchbook, when electricity is applied. Three attempts were made to ignite the watered tree during which the ignition source and position of fuel adjacent to the ignition source were varied, however, no sustained ignition of the tree was achieved. For the dry tree, ignition of the tree was achieved on the first attempt and a peak heat release rate of 7362 kW was reached 31 s after ignition. Data and video from these experiments are available in the Fire Calorimetry Database.
Technical Note (NIST TN) - 2131
Report Number


Christmas Tree, Holiday Fire Safety, Fire Calorimetry Database


Hoehler, M. , Bundy, M. , DeLauter, L. , Materese, R. , Gerskovic, L. and Garcia, J. (2020), Fire Hazards of Dry Versus Watered Christmas Trees, Technical Note (NIST TN), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed June 20, 2024)


If you have any questions about this publication or are having problems accessing it, please contact

Created December 14, 2020, Updated December 15, 2020