Man charged in starting fire that damaged historic palms at Joshua Tree

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- An arson suspect arrested at the scene of a fire that damaged a historical landmark at Joshua Tree National Park has appeared in a California court.

Federal prosecutors say George William Graham was observed watching flames rip through palm trees late Monday at the Oasis of Mara and told park rangers he had started the fire. Officials say the 26-year-old is a parolee with a prior arson arrest.

Graham was charged Wednesday with unlawfully setting fire to timber, a felony. It wasn't immediately known if he has an attorney.

He will remain in federal custody until his next court appearance April 11.

Flames damaged the Oasis of Mara, a site settled by Native Americans who planted the 29 palm trees that inspired the name of the nearby city Twentynine Palms.
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