Fire in Joshua Tree damages California landmark

LOS ANGELES – A suspected arson fire in Joshua Tree National Park in California is damaged by an historic milestone.

The fire that broke out late Monday damaged the Oasis of Mara, a site inhabited by indians, the 29 palm trees that are the inspiration for the name of the nearby town of Twentynine Palms, according to the National Park Service.

Strong winds fueled the rapid spread of the fire, which was recorded in less than one square mile (2.58 square kilometres), Eric Sherwin said a spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

The photos show several trees in flames as firefighters fought to snuff out the flames in less than an hour.

The fire is being investigated as an arson, the National Park Service said. No arrests have been made.

The initial assessments show damage to flora and fauna and the potential impact on archaeological resources, the agency said.

The agency is not describing the extent of the damage, by saying that a full assessment to be carried out.

Steve Raines, an old Twentynine Palms resident and a professional photographer, was nearby when a friend texted him that the Oasis of Mara was on fire.

Raines ran to the scene to take pictures.

“It’s considerable damage,” Raines said. “And it seems that it is going to be damaged for a long time.”

The Serrano people settled in the oasis, as the name Mara, “the place of little springs and much grass.” Located in the neighborhood of Joshua Tree’s headquarters and a bustling visitor’s center, the oasis is one of the first sites for the millions who visit the park each year.

Raines said that it was difficult to look to the oasis burn.

“It is a piece of history,” he said. “It is always heartbreaking to see something like that go up in flames.”


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