A FIRE ripped through reed beds destroying the habitat of protected birds at Newport Wetlands.

The blaze tore through 3.5 hectares of reserve land managed by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) on Sunday, and took ten firefighters 90 minutes to put it out.

Crews from Maindee and Malpas were called to the scene at 4.55pm and although firefighters cannot be sure, it is believed the fire was started deliberately.

CCW reserve manager, Tom Dalrymple, described the attack as “destructive” “dangerous” and “mindless” and said the organisation would look to prosecute anyone found to be responsible.

He said: “It looks very much like it’s arson but we will never be certain.”

“The fire brigade were called out to attend which is an obvious cost to the tax payer and prevents them from attending anything else."

Mr Dalrymple said they were fortunate the fire did not spread further but said the damaged reeds had been home to a pair of water rail birds, whose home had been destroyed making it unlikely they would rear young this season.

He said the blaze also posed a threat to other protected birds such as bearded tits and cett’s warblers which live at the site, along with otters and a number of reptiles and amphibians.

He said the blaze had destroyed a lot of nationally scarce habitat and although it would grow back, eight acres was a large area to lose.

The Wetlands, he said was a site well used by lots of people, and although no-one was injured or had to be evacuated from the area, said actions such as these were putting lives in danger.

He said: “It’s a dangerous and thoughtless thing to do.”

“We will take any opportunity we can to prosecute anybody in the future, the police have informed on this one. It’s very serious.”