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Fire engulfs reed beds

PUBLISHED: 11:05 22 May 2008 | UPDATED: 20:26 05 July 2010

A fire which tore through acres of protected land on the Suffolk coast was put out just yards from rare bird nesting sites.

Firefighters spent more than five hours putting out the flames which ripped through reed beds on the cliff at Easton Bavents, north of Southwold, on Tuesday night.

A fire which tore through acres of protected land on the Suffolk coast was put out just yards from rare bird nesting sites.

Firefighters spent more than five hours putting out the flames which ripped through reed beds on the cliff at Easton Bavents, north of Southwold, on Tuesday night.

The reeds caught light at about 7pm and quickly spread in the windy conditions to cover nearly eight acres, reaching about 200m inland from the cliff edge.

The coastal site, just south of the Benacre National Nature Reserve, has been designated as a Special Protection Area by Natural England as it is home to more than 100 species of birds, including bittern, marsh harrier and water rail.

Adam Burrows, site manager for Natural England, said: “The fire was in the area immediately to the south of the Benacre reserve. Wildlife has definitely been affected - I think we lost a marsh harrier nest in there.

“There were sightings of a booming bittern there a few weeks ago, so there's a chance that another nest has been lost as well. Thankfully, the fire crews were able to stop the flames south of the river. If it had spread further it would have been much worse.”

Peter Boggis, who lives at Easton Bavents, went to look at the damage yesterday and said: “I would guess that no more than 10pc of the reed bed has been destroyed. It looked much worse when it was on fire.

“It looks like the fire started on the coast side of the marsh, but I cannot see any reason why. It ran south of the river but luckily they got it under control before it could damage any more of the reeds.”

Fire engines from Lowestoft, Beccles, Halesworth, Southwold and Wrentham attended and set up a fire break along the Wrentham to Southwold road to stop the flames spreading inland, while the Suffolk police helicopter was used to check for hotspots. The cause of the fire is being investigated.

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