Inland Empire Man Arrested and Charged in Federal Court for Setting a Fire in Joshua Tree National Park
RIVERSIDE – A Twentynine Palms man appeared in federal court yesterday afternoon on a federal charge alleging that he illegally started the Oasis of Mara/Joshua Tree Fire, which damaged historic trees and other National Park resources in a 2.5-acre area behind the Oasis Visitor Center in Joshua Tree National Park on Monday night, March 26, 2018.
According to the criminal complaint filed Wednesday afternoon, National Park Service Law Enforcement Rangers arrested George William Graham, 26, of Twentynine Palms, at the scene of the fire. Graham was observed watching the blaze and admitted to law enforcement officers that he started the fire, which consumed a number of historic trees and other National Park Service lands and natural resources.
According to court records, Graham was known both to the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department and the National Park Service as a California arson parolee, with prior law-enforcement contacts with both California and federal authorities.
Federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Graham, which charges him with unlawfully setting timber afire, a felony offense punishable by up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. Graham is detained in federal custody pending his next court appearance on April 11, 2018.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The investigation is being conducted by the National Park Service, with assistance from the United States Bureau of Land Management, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, and the San Bernardino County Fire Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Adam P. Schleifer of the General Crimes section.