A DRUNKEN man drove off from his girlfriend's apartment after setting fire to piles of clothes in her bedroom.

Only the quick actions of emergency services prevented the blaze spreading to the remainder of the six-storey block of flats and putting the lives of up to 70 people at risk.

At Bolton Crown Court 34-year-old Simon Edgcumbe was jailed for two years and 10 months after admitting reckless arson.

Jonathan Savage, prosecuting, told how, on June 29, 2020, Edgcumbe, who was employed by his mother's lighting business, was at work when he received an email from his brother.

"It caused him sufficient amount of upset that he left work in the afternoon," said Mr Savage.

Angry Edgcumbe turned up at his partner's flat at West Point View, Garside Street, Bolton, where an argument broke out.

Edgcumbe, who was swigging from a bottle of vodka, smashed crockery and overturned the bed before leaving.

"The defendant telephoned her and again was abusive and made threats to kill her, causing her to block him on her phone and WhatsApp," said Mr Savage.

Just before 6pm, Edgcumbe was spotted speeding in his mother's Skoda Octavia, weaving in and out of traffic through Lostock.

The woman left her home, but shortly afterwards Edgcumbe returned to the block of flats after emotionally confessing to his mother's partner that he had "trashed" his girlfriend's property.

He parked the Skoda and CCTV from the apartment block showed that, up until 8.30pm, he was taking items to and from the flat to the car.

"The defendant is captured on footage driving away from the car park at 8.53pm. Eight minutes later at 9.01pm smoke can be seen coming from the building," said Mr Savage.

Six fire engines raced to the scene and managed to put out the flames while residents of the apartment block were evacuated.

The seat of the blaze was in the bedroom where the bed and clothing had been set alight.

Fire investigators found that it had been started deliberately, with a flame applied to clothing and bedding in a corner of the room. The possibility of electrical items or a carelessly discarded cigarette starting the fire, were discounted.

"Without the intervention of the emergency services it would most likely have spread to other properties. Due to the timber frame construction of the property the fire could well have spread to other parts of the building," said Mr Savage.

The court heard that the damage to the flat is estimated at £25,000 and left Edgcumbe's girlfriend homeless and having to live with her parents.

The trauma of the incident has left her needing counselling and anti-depressants

Police arrived at Edgcumbe's home in Leicester Avenue, Horwich, on the same evening as the fire. He was arrested and sets of keys and a lighter were seized.

He pleaded guilty to arson days before his trial was due to take place. The court was told that he has also served a suspended prison sentence for harassing the woman.

Isobel Thomas, defending, stressed that the amount of vodka he had drunk that day played a "massive part in what occurred".

She added: "His recollections of events are scant but he accepts he started the fire."

And the court was told that he wants to apologise to anyone affected by the fire.

Sentencing Edgcumbe, Judge Tom Gilbart told him he had endangered multiple people but he does not regard the blaze as a revenge attack.

"This was a very troubling incident," said Judge Gilbart.

"Having reacted badly to news in your personal life, you took the decision to start this fire and pose a considerable risk to others.

"These matters are so serious that the must be met by a custodial sentence "