The sky filled with smoke, roads and trails were closed,
and some campgrounds had to be evacuated.
Ernest Quintana, Joshua Tree National Park, superintendent, 1999
No one perdicted it, and no one would havve guessed
its size. What started as a typical holiday weekend
turned into a hellish event that torched nearly 14,000
acres, the largest fire in the park's history. On May 27,
1999, a passing thunderstorm sparked four fires.
A common occurrence, but coupled with a tinderbox
of non-native grasses that now choke the once open
spaces of teh desert landscape, a flash point was
reached. High winds fanned the flames and the fires
raged out of control.
The primary concern of park managers was to keep
firefighters and visitors safe. Unabated, fire flames
reached 40- to 60-foot heights. The fires' spread was
startling, but firefighters prevailed in stopping the
blaze. You are standing at the eastern-most edge of
the burn, contained by firefighters on Sunday,
May30, Memorial Day Weekend.
National Park Service policy favors
natural processes, But when plants
that are slow to regenerate following
fires are in jeopardy—like pinyon
pines, junipers, blackbrush, and Joshua
trees—park managers strive to limit or
stop all fires to save them.
Fires swept through Joshua tree
and pinyon pine forests. In areas
of high heat concentration, total
consumption of Joshua trees,
pinyons, and junipers occurred.
During fires, highly mobile animals
leave the area and burrowing animals go
underground. Wildfires rarely heat the
ground far below the surface. Smoke
inhalation can be a problem though,
and a few desert tortoises, like this one
were reported killed by the fire.