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Joshua Tree fire burns landmark, arson suspected, officials say

A fire broke out in Joshua Tree National Park in California, Monday evening, which officials are investigating as arson, the National Park Service said.

(Steve Raines Photography via AP)

A fire that broke out late Monday evening in Joshua Tree National Park in California is being investigated for arson after a historic landmark suffered damage, officials said.

The blaze affected the Oasis of Mara, home to the 29 palm trees planted by the Serrano, a native american tribe who settled there, the National Park Service said. The tribe called the oasis of Mara, which means “the place of little springs and much grass.”

The flames, which were checked on less than a square mile, were encouraged by the strong wind, Eric Sherwin, a spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire department, told The Associated Press. It took less than an hour for the fire brigade to extinguish the fire.

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Authorities are investigating the incidents as arson, the National Park Service said. No arrests have been made. Although a full assessment of the damage has not yet been performed, the first results show that damage to vegetation and fauna and a potential impact on archaeological resources, the agency said.

Steve Raines said of oasis: “It is always heartbreaking to see something like that go up in flames.”

(Steve Raines Photography via AP)

Steve Raines, a photographer and resident of Twentynine Palms, a nearby town, whose name was inspired by the trees, captured images of the scene in which the bright orange glow of the fire against the dark sky.

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

Raines described the place as “a piece of history” and said: “It is always heartbreaking to see something like that go up in flames.”

The oasis, located in the vicinity of Joshua Tree’s headquarters and a bustling visitor’s center, is one of the first sites for the millions of people who visit the park each year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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