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Impact of a Residential Sprinkler on the Heat Release Rate of a Christmas Tree Fire



Daniel M. Madrzykowski


Although the number of Christmas tree fires is low, the fires carry a higher level of hazard than other fires that occur in a residential structure. This study, supported by the U. S. Fire Administration, has the following three objectives: 1) characterize the heat release rate of dry Fraser fir trees and 2} demonstrate the ignition resistance of a tree with a high moisture content and 3) examine the impact of a residential sprinkler on the heat release rate of a dry tree that is on fire in a compartment. The heat release rates of the trees which were allowed to dry ranged from 3.2 MW to 4.3 MW. Trees that were kept in water, so that the needles maintained a moisture content in excess of 100%, self-extinguished after being exposed to a flaming book of matches. The data from the furnished sprinklered room experiment demonstrated that even under conditions of extreme fire growth, a single sprinkler was able to prevent flashover and limit the spread of fire to other objects. The peak heat release rate, from the sprinklered room, was limited to approximately 1.8 MW. The furnished unsprinklered room experiment generated a post-flashover heat release rate in excess of 6 MW.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) -


Christmas trees, fire prevention, heat release rate, heat flux, mass loss rate, residential sprinklers


Madrzykowski, D. (2008), Impact of a Residential Sprinkler on the Heat Release Rate of a Christmas Tree Fire, NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed May 27, 2024)


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Created May 1, 2008, Updated February 19, 2017