Big Heath Fire

13 April 2010, 15:56 | Updated: 17 April 2010, 08:28

An area of Heathland roughly the size of ten football pitches has been destroyed by fire in Studland.

It broke out on the nature reserve just after midday, and had been put out by 2.30pm.

A Dorset Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "The ground was fairly undulating making it difficult to cross, while the dry conditions and brisk breeze caused the fire to spread quickly.''

The cause of the blaze is being treated as arson.

Studland and Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve is a site of special scientific interest and is a recognised home to sand lizards, smooth snakes, Dartford Warblers, Nightjars and slow worms.

David Hodd, of the National Trust, said volunteers and staff had found "solid evidence that creatures had suffered in the inferno". He said: "We've had burnt to a cinder our best sand lizard site. It's likely some would have been out as it's a warm day. We will need to assess the impact and if any survivors need to be relocated. The ground is no longer suitable and
they are vulnerable to being preyed upon."

He added: "We are concerned that there have been a sequence of fires in recent weeks, three on site in the last seven weeks not attributable to natural causes or our work on the heath."