A man reportedly set himself on fire on the National Mall this afternoon and was airlifted to a hospital.

Police were called to respond to the emergency at 4.24pm and the fire was put out. The latest reports say that the man is in critical condition but his identity has still not been released.

The man has not been named, but DC Police reportedly said that he was conscious and breathing.

Witnesses said that they saw him sitting on the Mall, dousing himself with gasoline which he had in a gas canister.

Some reports say that two male bystanders initially tried to put the fire out using their own shirts while others put the number of Good Samaritans at closer to five or six people.

'I didn't hear a word from him,' witness Adam Stifel told CNN.

'He had already doused himself with gasoline, I saw his gas can.'

The incident took place near the Air and Space Museum and he was transported to MedStar Washington Health Center.

The man's exact motivations have not been reported but the chosen location hints that it was a demonstration of sorts.

The Mall is a national park, making it one of the hundreds of such sites across the country that have been closed as a result of the government shutdown.

U.S. Park Police sources told MailOnline that the shutdown didn't play into the rescue.

'There is no indication that the government shutdown impacted the way anyone responded to this. DC Fire/EMS had people on the scene in, literally, three minutes, and a helicopter transport was there minutes later,' the source told MailOnline.

'We are the lead agency in this investigation, but it will be awhile before we give out details to anyone.'

The incident comes one day after a woman was killed by police after she rammed her car into a barricade leading to the White House.