A fire investigator and K-9 dog investigate a container on the National Mall in Washington, where, according to a fire official, a man set himself on fire Oct. 4, 2013.
(Photo: Alex Brandon, AP)
A man set himself on fire Friday afternoon on the National Mall while facing the U.S. Capitol, witnesses reported.
The unidentified man was taken to the hospital with "life threatening injuries," a D.C. Fire Department spokesman toldThe Washington Post. Firefighters were called at 4:24 p.m. ET and arrived three minutes later at Seventh Street and Jefferson Drive, near the Air and Space Museum.
Witnesses told the Post and other news outlets that several joggers took off their shirts to extinguish the flames. One witness said the man thanked those who intervened.
The victim was "conscious and breathing" when firefighters arrived, a D.C. police spokeswoman told the paper. He was airlifted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center.
Katy Scheflen, who was walking through the Mall, said she saw the man empty a red container on himself and then set himself on fire, the Associated Press reported.
Nicole Didyk, who was jogging past, told the Post that one of the rescuers told her the man was facing the Capitol when he set himself alight. She was told he saluted before the fire, the Los Angeles Timesreported.
A woman walking on the Mall said the air "smelled strongly of burning flesh."
Police are trying to determine the man's motivation.
"I'm not aware of any signage or any articulation of any causes," U.S. Park Police Lt. Pamela Smith told AP.
Park Police temporarily closed an area of the mall at Seventh Street between Constitution Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW.