A POOLE nature reserve “once rich” with wildlife has suffered its third fire in the space of a month.

Firefighters battled two blazes this week alone at Alder Hills. On Thursday night, an area of heathland measuring 40 metres by 50 metres was ablaze.

Six fire crews were called to the reserve, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, shortly after 7pm.

They used four main lines, two hose reels and beaters to put out the fire, a spokesperson for the fire service said.

They were able to get the blaze under control in less than an hour.

The cause of the fire was not confirmed by the fire service, however Dorset Police was called to attend the incident, suggesting it could have been arson.

Only the day before a fire broke out on the 13 acre reserve, with four crews attending the incident.

Wednesday’s blaze was under control in around 20 minutes.

However it followed a huge fire at the reserve earlier this month, which destroyed a 75x100m area.

The blaze, driven by strong winds, spread rapidly and there were flames within yards of homes.

Images taken of the aftermath showed a big swathe of blackened heathland.

At the time wildlife experts told the Echo it could take up to 20 years for the heathland to get back to its pre-fire state.

The reserve is noted for its lizard and dragonfly populations. It is home to all six British reptile species and also attracts a number of bird species including the kingfisher, woodcock, cormorant, finch, and warbler.

A Facebook group about Poole’s heathlands run by BCP Council said Alder Hills had been “buzzing with life” prior to the fire.

“This once rich area will take years and decades to fully recover from this sad event.

“Heathlands are rare and there are very few of them left in the world.

“These habitats support so many endangered species of wildlife and losing more areas of heaths is always heartbreaking.”

Alderney and Bourne Valley councillor Tony Trent is urging anyone who spots any suspicious activity on heathlands to contact police.

“Now we’re going into the school summer holidays, it’s likely we’ll get heath-related problems.

“Alder Hills is a small piece of heathland but it’s home to every species of reptile we have.”