ANIMALS are being put at risk by the “selfish” actions of arsonists who started a blaze at a popular wildlife haven.

Firefighters acted quickly to extinguish the flames after witnesses reported seeing smoke rise above the Naze reserve, in Walton.

Essex Fire Service could not establish whether the blaze was accidentally or deliberately started.

The fire was first reported at around 5.30pm on Sunday.

Wildlife thrives at the Naze, with insects living in the soft cliffs and barn owls hunting over the grasslands.

The haven is a gateway into Hamford Water National Nature Reserve.

A spokesman for the Naze Centre, which is operated by Essex Wildlife Trust, said: “We condemn this kind of action.

“I have heard the damage was limited and we don’t yet know if birds were nesting in the bushes.

“There was another one on the night of the last bank holiday in May.”

Michael Talbot, Tendring councillor responsible for environment, said: “Tendring Council strongly condemns the malicious act of deliberately starting fires.

2Fires can easily spread and grow at an alarming rate which could lead to much further risks to the environment, wildlife and the public.”

“Whilst emergency services are dealing with these calls they are unavailable to attend genuine emergency situations which will put lives at risk.

“If anybody sees anyone deliberately attempting to start a fire they should promptly call the emergency services."