California Resident Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison for Starting Fire in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park PHOTOSTOCK-ISRAEL/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

On Monday, Sep. 10, 2018, 26-year-old George William Graham was sentenced to five years in prison— the maximum sentence—for lighting a palm frond on fire in Joshua Tree National Park with a handheld lighter, according to the United States Department of Justice.

Graham, a Twentynine Palms, CA resident, caused damage to nearly 10,000 square feet in the Oasis of Mara and was arrested at the scene for unlawfully setting timber afire.

 

 

At the time of the arrest, Graham was on parole for one of two previous arson convictions, for which he received four years in state prison, per court records.

The culprit was also ordered to pay $21,019 in restitution to the National Park Service, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Oasis of Mara was settled by the Native American Serrano Tribe in the early-to-mid 1800s; in the first year, they planted a palm tree every time a boy was born, culminating in 29 total palm trees, according to the National Park Service. Seven of those palm trees were damaged in the fire, as well as vegetation in the surrounding area.

The Oasis of Mara is located close to the park’s entrance and contains a visitor’s center and a nature trail, bringing around 140,000 visitors each year, according to the National Park service.