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A Woman Lit Herself On Fire Inside A Chicago Congressman's Office Tuesday

By Gwendolyn Purdom in News on Aug 31, 2016 2:07PM

Image via Congressman Danny Davis' Facebook page

Staffers at U.S. Rep. Danny Davis’ West Side office had a frightening encounter Tuesday afternoon when a 43-year-old woman walked in and set herself on fire. The woman, according to a news release from the congressman’s office, apparently entered the office at 2746 W. Madison just after 3 p.m. Tuesday, drank from a bottle of hand sanitizer, then doused herself with it and used a lighter to ignite herself. Witnesses tried to put out the fire with an extinguisher, but the woman ran out the doorway with the fire still burning.
Davis was away from the office when the incident began, he told Chicagoist Wednesday, but had returned before the woman was taken to Stroger Hospital in an ambulance. He was unable to speak with her, he said, because she was “incoherent.” Her condition is serious but stable.

“The medical prognosis is that she will regain her health but it might take a long time. She should ultimately be okay,” Davis said. “And as soon as she’s able there will be some psychological evaluation.”

While Davis said he and his staff have never experienced an event of this magnitude in their office, people struggling with mental illness or other issues are frequent visitors.

“Lots of people come to our office who have mental health issues, who have severe personal need, who are homeless or drug-addicted or seeking social service help, and they know that our office exists and I guess they pick up somewhere that there’s a reputation that they might get some help,” Davis said, “so its not unusual at all.”

The congressman expressed his well wishes for the woman and his prayers for her speedy recovery in the release and told us that the events that unfolded are yet another example of the shortcomings of Chicago’s mental healthcare resources.

“Every day people like her come to our office,” Davis said, “which points out the need for mental health services that are not available and that our human service systems are not working as effectively as they need to be.”