A MAN has been jailed for more than five-and-a-half years for arson.

Christopher McEvoy set fire to a bin compound to keep warm in Oakenhurst Road, Bank Top, Blackburn.

But Preston Crown Court heard that a large volume of smoke blocked the staircase of an adjacent block of flats, making it impossible for anyone on the first and second floors to get out of the building.

Three people went on to be treated at hospital for smoke inhalation while others also felt discomfort.

Around £5,000 damage was caused at the block containing six flats following the incident early one morning last April.

McEvoy, 34, formerly of Carlinghurst Road, Blackburn, pleaded guilty to arson, being reckless whether life would be endangered.

He also admitted attempting to pervert the course of justice by asking someone to give a false statement to police.

Roger Baldwin, prosecuting, told the court there was a report of a shed being on fire.

But firefighters arrived to discover a large amount of smoke coming from the front of the property.

"It was a serious fire, with a threat to life within the property.

Persons could be seen at various windows of the property," said Mr Baldwin.

"A large volume of smoke, heat and flames had filled the hallway and staircase, effectively trapping residents on the two upper floors.

"It was impossible for the occupants to escape without risk of serious injury.”

Miss Julie Taylor, defending, said that night McEvoy had intended staying at his sister's, but when he couldn't, Miss Taylor said he sought shelter in the communal storage area of the flats and lit a fire to keep warm.

"He left without ensuring it was properly put out. The next morning, on hearing what had happened, he panicked," said Miss Taylor.

"He is extremely remorseful and almost incredulous that he caused people to have to attend hospital for smoke inhalation.”

Judge Robert Brown gave him a total sentence of 69 months jail .