The aim of this work is to develop a halogen-free thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) composite with significantly improved fire performance by using a highly commercial phosphorous–nitrogen containing intumescent flame retardant (P–N IFR). Based on the characterizations of thermogravimetric analysis and in situ Fourier transform infrared spectra, P–N IFR powder was proved a desired flame retardant for TPU in theory and the thermal degradation property of PU/PNIFR composites at elevated temperatures was investigated as well. Fire performance was evaluated by limiting oxygen index, underwriters laboratories 94 testing and char residue morphologies. Results showed that the addition of P–N IFR promotes the formation of char residues which were covered on the surface of polymer composites resulting in the improvement of thermal stability and flame retardancy. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 39772.