Man sets himself on fire in Torquay Town Hall office
A MAN poured lighter fluid over his body and set fire to himself in front of shocked Torquay Town Hall staff.
Security staff rushed to help the man who it is thought was about to be made homeless.
He had been in the Connections office (pictured) in Castle Circus and was believed to have been seeking re-housing.
It is understood the 18-year-old man was in an agitated state and while staff were calling for an ambulance he reached into his pocket, pulled out a can of lighter fluid which he poured over his legs, setting fire to himself with a lighter.
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Today there were calls for an inquiry into the circumstances behind the incident by councillor Darren Cowell.
In the incident it is understood a security officer tried to take the lighter away from the homeless man.
It is believed the security officer dragged the man from the office and rolled him on the floor, extinguishing the flames.
An ambulance was called and the man was taken to Torbay Hospital suffering from burns to his legs and groin. His injuries are not said to be serious.
He was later put in the care of social services due to his mental state.
The incident happened in the Connections office at the side of the Town Hall building on Friday, December 7.
An ambulance crew was first at the scene at about 4.25pm closely followed by two fire crews from Torquay and police.
A spokesman for the ambulance service said paramedics found one person suffering from burns and took him to Torbay Hospital.
By the time fire crews arrived the fire was out and they did not take any further action.
A spokesman for the Devon and Somerset Fire Service said the combustible fluid appears to have came from a cigarette lighter.
He also confirmed the fire had been put out by staff.
It is believed the man walked into Connections and discussed a benefit application.
He is then said to have become unwell, prompting staff to call an ambulance.
Torbay Council could not confirm whether a dispute had taken place.
A spokesperson said: "We can confirm there was an incident within a council building last Friday.
"Council staff and the security team acted immediately to ensure the safety of everyone involved."
The council could not confirm what prompted the man's action but it is believed he was asking to be re-housed by the council's Options team and, although he was known to them, he was not thought to be a serious risk.
Cllr Cowell (pictured) said he is asking for an investigation into the case. He said: "What happened last Friday was an extreme circumstance and hopefully it isn't something we will see repeated. But what I fear is that it might be a sign of things to come as council staff have increasing workloads and changes are being introduced to council tax benefits.
"While I don't know the actual details of what happened, I am going to be making inquiries about whether this was a case of pure frustration because the council could not help or whether there was some failing.
"My feeling is that frustrations come sometimes when the staff's hands are tied because, even though people feel they are entitled, technically they are not."
Torbay MP Adrian Sanders, who had held his constituency surgery in the Connections office that morning, said: "The real issue here is the vulnerability of the people who work in the office and the excellent way they appear to have handled this."