Man Sets Self on Fire to Protest Christmas Vacation (Video, Photos)

A California man set himself and a Christmas tree on fire to protest the local school board’s changing the names of Winter and Spring Vacation to Christmas and Easter Vacation.


A man used flammable liquid to light himself on fire, apparently to protest a San Joaquin Valley school district’s decision to change the names of winter and spring breaks to Christmas and Easter vacation. The man, who was not immediately identified, on Friday also set fire to a Christmas tree, an American flag and a revolutionary flag replica, said Fire Captain Garth Milam.


Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy John Leyendecker said the man had a sign that read: “(expletive) the religious establishment and KHSD.”

On Thursday, the Kern High School Board of Trustees voted to use the names Christmas and Easter instead of winter and spring breaks.

KGET-17 has video of the incident and this report:

Witnesses said a man set himself and a Christmas tree on fire in front of the County Courthouse before courthouse worker a deputy were able to put out the flames with a blanket and fire extinguishers.

The man carried a sign that read “Expletive religious freedom and the silent KHSD.” The last reference, possibly to the Kern High School District’s decision Thursday to change the name of winter and spring break to Christmas and Easter break. Witnesses said the man wrapped himself in an American flag and set himself on fire.

Three pictures were taken by a witness with his cell phone from across the street. In the first picture, the man can be seen by the burning Christmas tree. In the second, two fires are visible, which is the tree and the man. In the third, you can see the flames were put out.

Witnesses said he burned for about 30 seconds just before 3:20 p.m. Friday before a court supervisor, a deputy, and Judge Michael Bush were able to extinguish the flames.

Here are some photos, apparently captured from the KGET feed, via Hot Air:

Man Sets Self on Fire to Protest Christmas Vacation Photo 1Man Sets Self on Fire to Protest Christmas Vacation Photo 2Man Sets Self on Fire to Protest Christmas Vacation Photo 3

AmerPundit believes the fellow is a moron. Randy thinks he’s more of an idiot. Sister Toldjah figures “Moonbat” covers it. John Sexton thinks he’s just a fellow in need of some help. Gateway Pundit figures he was just covering his bases. I’m sure this debate will rage as the story spreads.

Gaius believes this is a new Yuletide celebration, the YouLog.â„¢

AllahPundit wonders why his hair still looks so nice after being engulfed 30 seconds in fuel-aided flame. It’s an interesting question.

At any rate, I think we can agree that the fellow might have started with a letter to the editor? A call to the ACLU? Starting a blog? Setting yourself on fire is a lot to go through over the name of a school vacation, no?

Incidentally, we had Christmas and Easter vacation when I was in school. I managed to get through the experience without setting myself on fire a single time. Indeed, I was happy to get the time off.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tano says:

    I find it rather unseemly for all these political bloggers to try to exploit this case of a person who is obviously rather mentally unbalanced in order to feed their ongoing narratives.

    Are people just so intoxicated with politics that they lose all perspective?

  2. and the reason they put out the fire was…..?

  3. Butch says:

    Burn, sucker, burn!

    Tano, you’re EVERYTHING that is wrong with this country. Stupid tree-hunging dumb-arse!

  4. William says:

    If those are actual pictures of the event, then what you have is probably a hoax. That guy was not on fire 30 seconds.
    1) His skin would be completely gone, but he isn’t even blistered.
    2) His hair would be completely gone, but it isn’t even singed.
    3) His clothes would be mostly gone, but they are intact.
    The discoloration of the skin and clothes look like makeup (and not a very convincing job of it).

    I suspect the guy and photographer(s) faked the whole thing for personal, psycho-political purposes.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Tano: William (and AllahPundit) are quite likely right. There’s something more to this than a mentally ill person setting himself on fire. This may well be an elaborate publicity stunt/hoax.

  6. Eneils Bailey says:

    I wonder what this guy would do if we changed the name of the day that celebrates people like this, “April Fools Day.”

  7. Bithead says:

    Tano… Had it occurred to you that such mentally unbalanced people tend pull such stunts in support of LEFTIST causes?

    I’ll let you do the math. The results should be amusing.

  8. Kent G. Budge says:

    The two theories are hardly mutually exclusive. It might be a hoax by a mentally unbalanced person.

  9. LJD says:

    Maybe he was simply trying to burn a Christmas tree, and with his superior intelligence, set himself on fire accidentally.

    I can see the Deputy talking to the courthouse worker:
    ‘Do you think we ought to put him out now?’
    ‘No, give it a few minutes, I like my fruitcakes well done.’