A 16-year-old boy was suffered burns over 80 percent of his body after he set himself on fire inside a suburban Denver high school during an apparent suicide bid on Monday, police said. Westminster police department spokeswoman Cheri Spottke said the fire was contained in the cafeteria and was put out by two cafeteria workers with a fire extinguisher. One school cafeteria worker suffered a minor abrasion when she broke the glass to grab the fire extinguisher.
The boy entered the school at 9300 W. 104th Ave. around 7:15 a.m. and set himself on fire. There were 60 to 70 other students in the cafeteria at the time. None of them were injured, Jeffco Public Schools spokeswoman Lynn Setzer said.
The boy’s identity has not been released but his parents have been notified.
Kian Karp, 14, a freshman, was at his locker in a commons area adjacent to the cafeteria when he “heard screaming and looked over. I saw what I thought was a big ball of fire.” He focused on the fire. “I could see the kid in the flames,” Karp said. “He was standing and it was almost like he was dancing around in the fire.” Karp said he did not recognize the victim.
School is closed today and Tuesday, and counselors are being brought in to help, police said.
Today’s incident was the latest to affect a Denver-area school in recent weeks.
On Thursday, Columbine High School, where two gunmen killed 13 people in 1999, went on high security alert after receiving a series of threatening phone calls. The alert applied to a half-dozen other schools in the area, in the same school district as Standley Lake, but was lifted the same day.
On Dec. 13, student gunman Karl Pierson, 17, fatally shot Claire Davis, a 17-year-old classmate at Arapahoe High School in Centennial before killing himself in the school’s library. Pierson reportedly had threatened a teacher and librarian who had disciplined him last year and allegedly was seeking that teacher when he entered the school, investigators have said.
Westminster was home to 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway, who was abducted on her way to school and killed in 2012. Austin Sigg, who was 17 at the time of the crime, was sentenced to a life sentence plus 86 years. Jessica’s disappearance put Westminster and neighboring Denver suburbs on edge as police, aided by an army of volunteers, searched for her and then her killer.