WASHINGTON – The Secret Service tightened security at the White House on Friday after a man set his jacket on fire while riding in a motorized wheelchair near the northwest entrance on Pennsylvania Avenue.
“A male subject operating an electronic wheelchair-type scooter lit his outer jacket on fire while sitting along Pennsylvania Ave. outside the North Fence Line,” the Secret Service said on Twitter. “Uniformed Division Officers immediately responded, extinguished the fire and rendered first aid.”
It added in a follow-up tweet: “The male subject has been transported to a local hospital with what appears to be non-life threatening injuries.”
Officers restrained the man and carried him into Lafayette Park to treat him. The Secret Service closed Pennsylvania Avenue to pedestrians in front of the White House, and shut down a nearby street to vehicular traffic due to concerns about unattended packages.
There was no threat to President Donald Trump, officials said.
The incident unfolded as tourists took photos outside the White House. Authorities rushed to man and put out the fire using an extinguisher, witnesses told USA TODAY.
“I could hear shouting, like he was trying to yell, then I walked over and I could see cops all over him,” said Shell Ievoli, who was at the White House. “Then, Secret Service and everyone just started yelling ‘get out of the park!’ You could hear the urgency in their voices so we knew it was something.”
Officers cleared Pennsylvania Avenue and the North Lawn of the White House, restricting reporters to the White House briefing room. Lafayette Park was also closed and Secret Service agents barricaded off sidewalks.
Daniel Kingery, 57, who also watched the bizarre incident unfold said the man appeared to be acting in protest. Kingery said he was outside the White House when he saw the man roll up in his wheelchair holding up a dark-colored jacket.
“He was holding both the jacket and a phone. It looked like he was recording the whole thing,” Kingery said, adding that the flames were small and were quickly put out.