Suspected Arson Leaves Joshua Tree Landmark Oasis of Mara Charred in Twentynine Palms

A natural oasis near the Joshua Tree Oasis Visitor Center was damaged in a fire that is being investigated as arson, officials said Tuesday.

The blaze was spotted around 9:15 p.m. Monday night at the Oasis of Mara, just behind the Joshua Tree National Park Headquarters, the National Park Service said in a news release.

The fire, reported at about 2.5 acres, was put out by crews from the San Bernardino County Fire Department and Bureau of Land Management. Park rangers and San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies also responded to the scene.

Park officials are still working to assess the damage but said a preliminary survey indicates several natural resources were impacted, including palms and other wildlife and plants. Some "archaeological resources" were likely damaged as well.

The visitor center and park headquarters were not impacted and remain open to the public, but the Oasis of Mara will be closed until further notice.

Fire crews were still working to mop up the flames Tuesday morning, and arson investigators from NPS, BLM and San Bernardino County were responding.

The oasis, given its name by the indigenous Serrano people, settled at the small spring and planted 29 palm trees during their first year of settlement for each boy born in the community during that time, according to NPS. The town of Twentynine Palms was later established, encompassing the site, and the oasis was donated to NPS in 1950.

The landmark, which includes a nature trail, draws more than 140,000 visitors each year, officials said.