According to the National Park Service, George William Graham, 26, of Twentynine Palms appeared in federal court on Thursday afternoon on a federal charge alleging he started the illegal fire that damaged the historic Oasis of Mara landmark.
A fire was reported in the Oasis of Mara last night. Firefighters from the NPS, BLM, County, as well as the Sheriff's Office responded. The fire is being investigated as arson by the NPS, BLM, and San Bernardino County Fire Department.https://t.co/TncbBPg8zB
Photo: Steve Raines pic.twitter.com/2unrGjQ12f
— Joshua Tree NPS (@JoshuaTreeNPS) March 27, 2018
NPS Law Enforcement Rangers arrested Graham at the scene of the fire. He was known both to the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department and the NPS as a California arson parolee. According to the Los Angeles Times, he admitted to law enforcement officials that he set the blaze, and that he did so with a cigarette lighter.
Graham is facing a felony offense that could come with a possible sentence of five years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. He is currently being detained in federal custody awaiting his next hearing on April 11.
The NPS is still assessing the damage of the fire, but it had consumed at least three palm trees as well as brush in the historic area near the Joshua Tree Oasis Visitor Center and Joshua Tree National Park Headquarters. It is possible some archaeological resources were affected as well. The Oasis of Mara will be reopened to the public at a later date, showing that the historic site is not completely destroyed.
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