Large parts of Greetwell Hollow nature reserve in Lincoln have been left burnt by a week of constant arsons.
Fire crews have been called to the Lincoln beauty spot at least four times this week, with youths blamed for deliberately starting the blazes.
The fire service has warned that deliberate fires put a strain on crews as Lincolnshire enters drought status, and could cause delays in getting to serious incidents.
Two fires on Wednesday evening required eight engines to be at the former quarry on Carlton Boulevard for several hours.
Parents have been asked to keep an eye on their children during the summer holidays.
Reporters at the scene saw at least 20 patches of burnt grass on a short walk around the nature reserve – some of which had been caused by small fires, but others which had spread extensively. PCSOs were patrolling the area at the time.
One local resident says she recently saw young boys walking away from a deliberately-started fire, and return minutes later after firefighters had extinguished it.
“This last week has been terrible. There were about four or five fires on Saturday and three yesterday on Wednesday. The area is blackened and I am saddened to think the impact this has had on wildlife,” she said.
“Two boys were walking away from the fire as I got there, one with a lighter in his hand. It’s the audacity of it. As soon as the firefighters put them out and leave, the children are back starting a new one. The boys I saw looked about 12.
“Police really need to be finding them now, and I think local schools should be getting involved to teach children the risks. They are old enough to know right from wrong.”
Councillor Martin Christopher, who represents the Abbey ward, urged parents to make sure that their children weren’t responsible.
“Parents who suspect their kids are involved need to let them know that are consequences to this. I don’t want to tell people how to raise their children, but they can’t be allowed to keep doing this,” he said.
“People have to be aware what their children are up to during the summer holidays.
“If there’s a gang of seven or eight, it can be hard for police to know which kid started a fire. However, they can give an Anti-Social Behaviour warning letter to all of their parents.
“I’ve been saying all along that there has to be more engagement for young people in this area, whether its youth centres or Scouts, to give them guidance and keep them out of trouble.”
Jon Henderson, Community Fire Protection Manager at Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue, said that low-level arson can still have a serious impact.
“Deliberate incidents like these are reckless and put a strain on fire and rescue resources. They can easily escalate and cause serious damage. As shown on Wednesday, these two fires took up eight fire appliances for several hours, meaning we could have been delayed getting to other incidents.
“I would appeal to parents to know where their children and teens are when they go out during the summer holidays and be vigilant in preventing them causing harm and damage in our communities.”
No one has been injured by the fires so far.
Lincolnshire Police say they are investigating whether there are links to deliberate fires which also took place near Lincoln’s Boultham Park on Wednesday.
A spokesperson said: “We are asking parents and carers to know where their children are, and to ensure that they educate them about the risks and consequences of causing harm and damage in our communities.”
Anyone with information or CCTV, dashcam or phone footage which could help the police to identify the people responsible are asked to get in touch with them by calling 101.
—Additional reporting by Joseph Verney and Emily Norton