Young families had to flee for their lives after an arsonist torched a building in Harrogate.
Terrified parents with tots ran out into the street after Mark Masheder, 27, set fire to a bedsit which threatened to spread to neighbouring properties.
Two tenants inside the mid-terrace building suffered smoke inhalation and were taken to hospital, York Crown Court heard.
The landlord, who was away in Italy at the time, flew back to find his building in such a mess he had to shut it down for six weeks, losing £2,500 in rent.
Masheder, of Ripon Road, Harrogate, was charged with arson and being reckless as to whether lives would be endangered. He admitted starting the fire in the early hours of August 24 and appeared in court for sentence on Thursday.
Prosecuting barrister Glen Parsons said Masheder and a friend, who were both tenants of the multi-occupancy property on Scargill Road, ransacked a bedsit belonging to a male tenant. Masheder’s friend, who was named in court, stole a money box and was later convicted of theft.
After ransacking the room, Masheder set fire to it, causing a huge cloud of smoke which drifted through the building and woke one of the female tenants.
She ran out into the street to raise the alarm and firefighters got there just before the fire was about to spread. They brought it under control but the building had already suffered extensive smoke damage.
Mr Parsons said that if the female tenant hadn’t been woken by the intense smell of smoke, the fire could have had catastrophic consequences.
“He (Masheder) knew there were other people in that property but did nothing to raise the alarm,” added the prosecutor.
He said the cost of refurbishing the building - the front UPVC door of which had melted and its furniture damaged - was £15,000.
The court heard that Masheder had 13 previous convictions for offences such as threatening behaviour, shoplifting, dangerous driving and drink-driving, and was currently on prison remand following a 17-month jail sentence imposed in February for offences committed after the arson attack.
Defence barrister Taryn Turner said Masheder, a father-of-one who worked as a car valeter, had a drink and drug problem and was going through a personal crisis at the time. He had been drinking heavily in the run-up to the incident.
Jailing Masheder for four years, judge Stephen Ashurst told him he had put the lives of other tenants and young families “at real risk”, adding: “The fire was a potentially devastating one.”