Joshua Tree National Park: Fire safety in the parks

Madison Lucas Experience Park Tours, National Parks

What can we learn from the Joshua Tree fire?
How can we prevent future destruction by fire in our parks?

Picture a desert. You might imagine something harsh like endless deserts of Africa, or maybe you imagine an endless sky, a gradient of browns and sage greens, a determined sun ready to lay down a blanket of vitamin D, and an overall scene of beauty all its own. Though, unless you were born with desert sand in your blood like most people living in the West, you may still wonder during this imagining, where is the oasis?

In Southeastern California lies Joshua Tree National Park.

Near Palm Springs, Joshua Tree is unique, beautiful, and has veins of rich history pulsing through every plant, rock, animal and gust of wind. Full of incredible palm trees planted by early American Indian settlers, tall sage grass, natural waters and springs, and large sand-rock formations created by strong winds, Joshua Tree is home to fauna large and small, from amphibians like the spotted California Tree Frog, to mammals like the abundant Kangaroo Rat, the Desert Kit Fox, and the rarely seen Western White-throated Woodrat. It is no wonder this park is such a popular destination on many travelers’ bucket lists. However, life-changing places like Joshua Tree have been easily taken for granted.  

Late Monday, March 26th, 2018 Joshua Tree caught fire. According to ABC7 news, the cause is suspected to be arson, though, no arrests have been made. Either way, the National Park was severely damaged. Descriptions have included comparing the famously planted palm trees as “burnt match sticks.” Unfortunate instances such as this happen more often in our National Parks than one might think, and if the cause is not a natural disaster, it is from irresponsible park visitors.

There are many ways to keep our parks safe and to prevent damage. According to the National Park Service, part of keeping National Parks safe is making sure that visitors are well prepared in wild terrain.

Fires at Joshua Tree must be treated with the utmost care. Because of the park’s dry climate, fire danger is always at a high risk! Here are some ways to do your part in lowering this risk in any National Park.

  • Be cautious of your surroundings
  • Respect smoking rules within the park
  • Use only designated fire rings and grills for fires
  • Use your own firewood. Burning park vegetation or other combustible items is prohibited
  • Use firewood acquired locally. Other foreign firewood could introduce harmful pathogens and pests to the park
  • Keep fires small
  • Douse your fire properly; bring extra water for this purpose

We recommend to always travel in a small group for several safety reasons. If you are traveling alone, always leave information of your planned hiking route and expected return time with a friend or family member beforehand. Always remember to check in upon return, and in an emergency call 909-383-5651 or 911.

We believe that it is all of our responsibility to preserve and protect the National Parks. Some instances are inevitable when bringing millions of visitors into the parks each year, but we have the power and resources to control the level of human impact in these pristine areas by simply doing our part. By having a Commercial Use Authorization permit within the parks, we are able to give back a percentage of our gross revenue to help maintain and protect current conservation efforts.

To learn more about the parks we are working to protect, check out our destinations page.