A GROUND-FLOOR tenant who started a 4am blaze in his block of flats then turned off the fire alarm has been jailed.

Two people lived in the flats above Alan Eastwood, 44, who was facing eviction that day, said Rob Galley, prosecuting at York Crown Court.

He used a towel to stop smoke escaping from his property in Haxby Road, York.

Five days earlier, when his landlord had told him he must leave on December 7 because he wasn't paying his rent, Eastwood had replied: "You will know what my intention is by the 8th".

Glenn Parsons, for the arsonist, said he was suffering from stress and depression brought on by his former job as a special projects manager. He took a cocktail of pills and had a razor blade at hand before he started the fire on December 7.

"His intention was to obliterate himself and his entire existence in that flat," said Mr Parsons.

"This was a desperately serious offence," the Recorder of York, Judge Paul Batty QC told Eastwood at York Crown Court.

"You certainly intended to destroy that property. You certainly intended to destroy the flat. In my judgement, it may well be you intended to extinguish your own life as well.

"The fact is, you necessarily put at risk the lives of the others. It was just happenstance that the lady who lived on top of you was working a shift and wasn't at home."

Mr Galley said she came home to find five fire crews dealing with the blaze. The upstairs tenant had heard the fire alarm before Eastwood silenced it, had gone to investigate and rung 999. The blaze was restricted to Eastwood's flat.

Eastwood, 44, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether the lives of others were endangered and was jailed for three years and four months.

Mr Galley said Eastwood started the fire near to a bookcase in his room where he had lived for 16 years.

Mr Parsons said Eastwood used to have a job as special projects manager for a car parts manufacturer, but his mental health had been so affected by work pressures that he had resigned.

"He didn't get a new job and found himself isolated, he is estranged from his father and his mother is dead," said Mr Parsons. "His mental health slid further and further down into the black. It is in that frame of mind he committed this offence."

Eastwood was not a fire-raiser by nature, said Mr Parsons, and he had not started the fire in revenge for being evicted.