After a man set himself on fire on Sproul Plaza, the flames were put out with a fire extinguisher Wednesday afternoon. This photo is a still from a video submitted to Berkeleyside.

A man in his early 20s set himself on fire around 4:17 p.m. Wednesday afternoon on Sproul Plaza, police and fire officials said.

He sustained second- and third-degree burns over much of his body and was taken to the trauma center at Oakland’s Highland Hospital, according to the Berkeley Fire Department.

A woman who tried to put the fire out was taken to a different medical facility for minor burns, authorities said. Another bystander who came to the man’s aid was also treated for burns and released at the scene.

The University of California Police Department is investigating the incident. Berkeley’s police and fire departments and Berkeley Mental Health responded to the scene.

“The person’s identity and condition is unknown at this time,” according to a UC Berkeley WarnMe. “We do not know if the individual is affiliated with the university.”

Tony Delacruz works in the UC Student Store at Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue, and was returning from his break a little after 4 p.m. when he heard yelling and commotion on Sproul Plaza.

He rushed outside and saw the man “completely engulfed in flames.” Delacruz said the man seemed “indifferent” to the flames, but appeared to be angry and was yelling in the direction of bystanders who had gathered around him.

Delacruz ran back into the store to retrieve a fire extinguisher, but by the time he came out, Enrique Rojas, manager at Sandwich a Go-Go across Bancroft Avenue, was already battling the flames.

Enrique Rojas, general manager at Sandwich a GoGo, was fixing an espresso machine when he noticed a man on fire across the street and used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

When Rojas first saw the man on Sproul Plaza from inside the cafe, he wasn’t sure what had happened. A group had gathered around the man and several people were filming.

But then the flames quickly spread over his entire body. Rojas grabbed the fire extinguisher and dashed out of the store, across Bancroft Way.  The man was undeterred by the flames and was walking away from Rojas, and it took him about a minute to catch up with him.

In a video submitted to Berkeleyside, Rojas is seen walking beside the man and eventually discharging the entire fire extinguisher. He returned back to the cafe once police arrived on the scene.

The fire extinguisher Rojas used sits on the floor of the cafe Wednesday evening. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

“I hope he gets help, and that everyone around the situation is OK,” Delacruz said. “I noticed some people were visually traumatized by what they saw. There’s a lot of freshman students in this area.”

UCPD is asking people with information about the incident relevant to investigators to call 510-642-6760, and the university shared counseling resources for students and staff with those who may have seen the incident or watched videos circulating online.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Zac Farber

Before joining Berkeleyside as managing editor in April 2021, Zac was editor of the Southwest Journal, a 30,000-circulation biweekly community paper in Minneapolis, MN. While there, he led coverage of...

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Supriya Yelimeli is a housing and homelessness reporter for Berkeleyside and joined the staff in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and...