Photos taken at the scene show security personnel with a person on the ground. Police and amublance crews are in attendance. Nicholas Kristof, a columnist with the New York Times, said: “Someone apparently set himself on fire in front of the White House just now. I was coming out of the West Wing, and the Secret Service isn’t letting anyone out onto Pennsylvania Ave. They say there were also suspicious packages.
“The whole area in front of the White House is now secured. Nobody coming in, and we aren’t allowed out.”
The Secret Service said on Twitter: “ALERT: Secret Service personnel are responding to a police/medical incident on Pennsylvania Ave. along the WhiteHouse North Fence Line.”
They later indicated it was an accidental fire.
They said: “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. Uniformed Division Officers immediately responded, extinguished the fire and rendered first aid.
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“The male subject has been transported to a local hospital with what appears to be non-life threatening injuries.”
However, Daniel Kingery, a 57-year-old voter rights activist, said the man was holding up his burning jacket and recording the incident, which appeared to be a demonstration.
Mr Gingery said: ”He wasn’t obeying their order to put it down, so it was definitely some sort of a protest.
“The Secret Service put out the fire, knocked him out of the scooter, and dragged him to a statue in nearby Lafayette Square where other officials were waiting.”
The Secret Service closed Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House to pedestrian traffic, and a nearby block of 17th Street was closed as well.
At least portions of the White House complex were locked down.
News video showed emergency medical personnel arriving to tend to a person who police had surrounded on the ground.
President Donald Trump was in the White House but not in danger, a CNN reporter said on Twitter.