A FIRE-RAISER who started a blaze at a tenement leading to the rescue of residents was jailed for eight and a half years after a judge condemned his wicked crime.

Arsonist Brian Martin, 30, set fire to flooring at the block of flats in Dundee's Garland Place resulting in massive damage. The judge told Martin: "This was a wicked crime. You put the residents of this building in real and substantial danger for their lives."

Lord Boyd of Duncansby said at the High Court in Edinburgh that fire and emergency services who responded were also put at real risk by Martin's criminal behaviour. One firefighter who went into the block was injured after a staircase collapsed and he fell about eight feet. James Ingram, 31, was trapped and was rescued by fellow crew members.

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When fire staff arrived at the scene of the blaze on April 25 in 2012 they found eight of nine residents at windows in the three storey tenement seeking rescue.

Lord Boyd told Martin: "There are, as you would know, 10 flats in the block and the staircase was of wooden construction. You were found guilty after trial at Dundee Sheriff Court of wilful fire raising. The sheriff has remitted the case to this court as he considered his powers of sentence were insufficient to deal with you. He was right to do that," said the judge.

Lord Boyd said Martin's lifestyle choices had so far been disastrous for him and for the rest of the community. The residents at the building were all rescued and the fire was eventually brought under control but the property was extensively damaged and a dog perished.

One resident, Alistair Smith, 46, heard a noise from the stairwell and when he went to investigate burnt his hand on the door handle and saw his letterbox was melting. He covered his head with wet towels and dialled 999 before being rescued as his escape by the stairs was completely cut off. He saw Martin, who he had previously offered temporary accommodation before asking him to leave, standing with other onlookers in the street after his rescue. An accelerant was likely to have been used in the fire.

Defence counsel Lili Prais said Martin felt sorry for the occupants' loss and had been an alcoholic since his teenage years and was also involved in drug abuse.