Christmas Tree Heat Release Rate (HRR)

The Department of Fire Protection Engineering at the University of Maryland hosts an annual competition to predict the burning behavior (heat release rate, HRR) of a Fraser Fir Christmas tree from ignition to final burnout. More information about this competition can be found at:


On this page, you can ‘build’ (and submit) your own Christmas tree fire HRR prediction for this year’s competition by adjusting four parameters that define: fire growth rate, peak heat release, the duration of steady burning, and fire decay.

For over two decades, the Fire Research Division at NIST has supported Christmas tree fire safety awareness by conducting multiple burn experiments using both dry and wet trees. Using measurement science based on oxygen consumption calorimetry, researchers are able to quantify how rapidly a burning tree releases energy (heat release rate).

These experiments are part of a of a larger fire science program to 1) support and promote better public awareness of fire safety during the holiday season and 2) highlight relevant research projects and tools – both experimental1 and modeling2 – that are developed to quantify the behavior of fire and to reduce the impact of fire on people, property, and the environment.

This competition also provides a platform for open communication between members of the fire safety science community. This competition provides an opportunity to encourage and motivate current researchers and the next generation of scientists and engineers to explore and develop collaborations related to emerging areas of fire safety science.

Large Scale Fire Research at NIST

Properly Maintained Christmas Trees are Less of a Fire Hazard

NIST experiments demonstrating how a frequently watered Christmas tree may be less of a fire hazard than a dry one

How Can We Make Buildings More Resistant to Fire?

Full scale (up to 15 MW) structural fire experiments conducted at NIST

  1. Stroup, D.W., DeLauter, J.L., Roadarmel, G., “Scotch Pine Christmas Tree Fire Tests,” NIST Report of Test FR 4010, National Institute of Standards and Technology. December 1, 1999. Downloaded November 1, 2017. 

  2. Mell, W., Maranghides, A., McDermott, R., Manzello, S.L., “Numerical Simulation and Experiments of Burning Douglas Fir Trees,” Combustion and Flame 156: 2023-2041. 2009. Downloaded November 1, 2017.