California's largest wildfire threatening historic Joshua trees in Mojave Desert
'It will take a lifetime to get those mature Joshua trees back,' says official at environmental group as more than 82,000 acres have burned
By Darren Lyn
HOUSTON, US (AA) - Firefighters on Wednesday continued to battle the largest wildfire in the state of California, which is encroaching on the iconic Joshua tree groves in the Mojave Desert.
The York Fire, which erupted last Friday, has scorched more than 82,000 acres of land in both California and Nevada, already destroying Johsua trees in the Mojave National Preserve.
“It will take a lifetime to get those mature Joshua trees back,” said Laura Cunningham of the Western Watersheds Project environmental group in an interview with television station KVVU. "This is pretty devastating."
Joshua trees, which grow nowhere else in the world besides the Mojave Desert, are particularly vulnerable to fire with little natural defense. The unique spiky plants can live for more than 150 years, but the massive wildfire is threatening their survival.
“When the tally is done, it will total tens of thousands and maybe hundreds of thousands of Joshua trees,” said Brendan Cummings with the Center for Biological Diversity in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.
Environmental officials said the wildfire is also threatening more than 200 rare plants that are native to the national preserve, but the Joshua trees are the focus of attention.
“If an area with Joshua trees burns through, most will not survive and reproduction in that area is made more difficult,” the National Park Service said in a statement. “Wildfires could also result in the loss of irreplaceable resources in the park, like historic structures and cultural artifacts.”
Nearly 400 firefighters and emergency personnel are battling the wildfire in the scorching desert heat with typical highs above 100F (37.7C). As of Tuesday, the blaze was only 23% contained.
The cause of the York Fire is still under investigation.
This news has been read 38 times in total