Student sets himself on fire at Denver-area school

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — One student was critically injured after he set himself on fire in a high school cafeteria in an apparent suicide attempt.

Fire officials say more than 80% of the student's body was burned after he tried to kill himself at Standley Lake High School in suburban Denver. The 16-year-old, who has not been identified, was taken to an area hospital.

The fire, which broke out at about 7:15 a.m. MT, was extinguished quickly. Westminster Police Department spokeswoman Cheri Spottke said the teen had not made any statements before igniting himself.

"There is no indication there were any threats," she said.

The teen reportedly doused himself with oil before setting himself on fire and left word of his intentions on social media. Spottke said she didn't know how the student started the fire.

"This is not someone's fault. I had this planned for years," he wrote. He went on mention that friends over the weekend tried to talk him out of the suicide attempt. "If anyone says that they know why I did this, ... nobody knows and nobody will."

A school staffer suffered a minor cut while trying to retrieve a fire extinguisher from its glass-enclosed container.

The fire was confined to the cafeteria and a custodian quickly put it out with the fire extinguisher, Spottke said. Several other students were in the cafeteria at the time but none were injured.

The building, which houses about 1,500 students in grades 9 to 12 northwest of Denver, did not sustain much damage but smoke did fill the area, officials said. Fire investigators discovered an empty one-gallon can of fuel on the floor.

"Our focus now is making sure the kids are safe," Spottke said.

School was canceled for Monday and Tuesday, Jefferson County Public Schools spokeswoman Lynn Setzer said. Students who already had arrived on campus were sent home.

Self-immolation is rare in the United States and is not listed among the top reasons for emergency room visits resulting from self-inflicted injuries, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2009 in Tibet, 125 people have set themselves on fire to protest China's continuing occupation of that country.


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