NATURE reserve arsonists are risking their lives and those of wildlife in the area.

Firestarters are regularly targeting the grassland at the Essex Wildlife Trust Langdon Hills Centre, Third Avenue, Lower Dunton Road, Langdon Hills,

A spokesman for the Essex Wildlife Trust said: “In the face of climate change, as summers get hotter and drier, incidents such as that at Langdon could spread to be large grassland fires that could put lives at risk and decimate wildlife.”

He added: “Essex Wildlife Trust are sad to hear of another arson attack in South Essex.

“The burning of grass piles has a number of negative impacts, with the obvious being that they are extremely dangerous to visitors to the site; but less obvious is that they do have an ecological impact.

“Burning grass piles increases nutrients which can affect the kind of plants growing on the burn scar for many years.

“The high nutrients favour some of the grasses and nettles rather than the scarce, low growing, flowers that can be found on the wonderful wildflower meadows of Langdon that the EWT team work hard to protect.

“Grass piles in the countryside can also be used by a number of other creatures including amphibians, reptiles and mammals; grass snakes can be found in grass heaps and lay eggs in compost heaps.

“The implications of arson cannot be highlighted enough and the EWT urges visitors to report such incidents directly to the emergency services.”

Pictures from the scene show the smouldering ash covered field at the popular reserve.

Park bosses also posted on Facebook about the incident.

Volunteers and rangers were drafted in to clean up the area.

They cleared the burnt grass piles to help restore the species rich grassland.

The centre has a nature reserve of 461 acres of woodland, meadows and lakes.

The trusts educates about and protects wildlife.

The charity trust is one of 47 wildlife trusts which cover the UK with the trust founded in 1959.

The spokesman thanked the fire service for helping and urged those responsible to think before starting the fires in the fields.