A fire that erupted late Monday night at Joshua Tree National Park in California is being investigated for arson after a historical 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 dubbed the oasis Mara, which means “the place of little springs and much grass.”
The flames, which were controlled at less than a square mile, were emboldened by strong winds, Eric Sherwin, a spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department, told The Associated Press. It took less than an hour for firefighters to extinguish the blaze.
Authorities are investigating the incident as arson, the National Park Service said. No arrests have been made. While a full assessment into the damage has not yet been conducted, initial findings show damage to vegetation and wildlife and a potential impact on archaeological resources, the agency said.
Steve Raines, a photographer and resident of Twentynine Palms, a nearby city whose name was inspired by the trees, captured images of the scene showing the bright orange glow of the fire burning against the dark sky.
"It's significant damage," he said. "And it looks like it's going to be damaged for a long time."
Raines described the landmark as “a piece of history” and said “It’s always heartbreaking seeing something like that go up in flames.”
The oasis, located near Joshua Tree's headquarters and a bustling visitor's center, is among the first sites for the millions of people who visit the park every year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.