More than 700 people visited a Merseyside coastline in 72 hours as council chiefs believe a fire which caused a huge beach blaze was 'man-made.'
Fire crews were called to the scene, between the Coastal Road and the shore front, shortly after 6.30pm on Monday, April 21.
The blaze scorched through 400 square metres of grass and gorse on Ainsdale beach which left a trail of destruction.
A spokesperson for Sefton Council said it was working alongside Merseyside Fire and Rescue and understood the cause of the fire to be man-made.
This followed reports that more than 700 people flocked to Sefton's beaches over the weekend.
The local authority said several hundred people were seen visiting parts of the coastline after ignoring life saving health advice amidst efforts to curb the outbreak of COVID-19.
In a tweet Sefton Council said outdoor exercise was encouraged, however the beaches were not there for people "to top up their tan or have a picnic."
They warned the number of people congregating to the coast during the warm weather was a cause for "considerable" concern and asked people to heed to social distancing rules.
Sefton Council's Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, councillor Ian Moncur said the exact causes of the fire were unknown, however it was "clear" they started "as a result of human interference."
Cllr Moncur said: "The message is clear and there is no excuse for anyone ignoring the severity of this situation.
"We actively encourage responsible and measured exercise time but to see such high numbers of people gathering in close quarters is highly concerning.
"Fires have also broken out on our protected dunescape and this is incredibly damaging to our wildlife.
"While the exact causes are unknown, it is clear they started as a result of human interference.
"Our coast is not going anywhere. It will remain in place ready to welcome you when it is safe to do so but now is not that time.
"Residents are urged to stay home and only go outside if it is essential to do so.
"We are working incredibly hard with our partners across a number of professions to ensure our communities are as resilient as possible as we tackle COVID-19 but we need your help.
"The most important action we can all take at this time is to follow the Government’s advice in order to protect the NHS and save lives.”
No-one is believed to have been injured in last night's fire, which saw the Coastal Road closed between Pontins and Southport.
Firefighters found no indication the fire was started deliberately.
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However, the fire service tweeted today for people to take litter home, to not leave cigarettes, bottles or glass behind and not to set fires in open countryside.
They said: "FRS attended a large grass fire at Ainsdale beach last night. It took over 5 hours to put out the fire due to high winds.
"When visiting outdoor areas remember to take litter home.
"Don't leave cigarette ends, bottles or glass behind.
"Don't set fires in open countryside."