A BLOCK of flats had to be evacuated after an alcoholic attempted to kill himself by torching an abandoned fridge after a row with his neighbour.

Stephon Allen attempted to kill himself by pouring petrol over the fridge, which had been left abandoned on a balcony between his and his neighbour's first floor flat in Withins Lane, Breightmet.

A fire broke out and emergency crews had to break in to rescue the 50-year-old while neighbours were forced to flee their homes, Bolton Crown Court heard.

Now Allen, who was dragged from the property hurling insults at police, has been sentenced to three years in prison for causing the ordeal.

Robert Smith, prosecuting, told how neighbour Lindsay Hough was alerted to the fire at 10.40pm on February 12 by the smell of smoke.

“She also saw a great deal of smoke wafting by her window. At the same time there was a banging noise coming from outside,” said Mr Smith.

“She went to her front door where she could see flames directly outside the flat.

“She describes the flames being as high as the ceiling and she could smell petrol.

“Another neighbour heard a whooshing sound as the fire took hold. She received a text from the defendant saying that he had ‘had enough’.”

The occupants of the block of four flats managed to escape and another neighbour living across the road, tried to put the flames out.

Firefighters were quickly on the scene and managed to stop the flames spreading inside the flats.

Allen claimed to know nothing about the fire but there was a petrol can in his kitchen.

Allen, who has previous convictions for dishonesty, but none within the last 18 years, pleaded guilty to committing arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Kevin Liston, defending, stressed that Allen suffers from alcohol dependence syndrome, which affects his thinking.

“This was prime example of that defect,” he said.

“The defendant had a falling out with a friend and returned home in a poor state of mind and made the regrettable decision to try and take his own life.”

He added that Allen had left the fridge on the balcony several months earlier and it he not prevent anyone leaving their own homes.

“Some comfort can be taken by the fact that there was no damage caused to the properties in question and thankfully no significant injuries.”

Sentencing Allen to three years in prison, the Honorary Recorder of Bolton, Judge Martin Walsh told him: “Fires such as this can escalate out of control very easily and you placed at risk the lives of those who were resident in the block which you shared.

“It was an attempt to harm yourself.”

The court heard that, while subject to alcohol dependency, Allen poses a great risk of causing serious harm to others.

“Only a custodial sentence can be justified. Although there was no extensive damage caused to the property, the consequences of igniting a fire with an accelerant of petrol could be catastrophic.”