A MAN has pleaded guilty to setting fire to a block of flats in Dorchester and trying to put the lives of residents at risk.

Jesse Everett, 27 and from Dorchester, intentionally set fire to Signal House, flats at Bitter End in Dorchester, forcing residents to be evacuated from their homes in the middle of the night.

Dorset Police was called shortly after 4am on Monday, June 29 to the blaze. Residents woke up to the sound of the fire alarm blaring and the smell of thick black smoke. They were evacuated in the terrifying ordeal, and some of those who lived on the second floor had to move out for six weeks while the damage done by the fire was repaired.

Four firefighters entered the burning building to extinguish the blaze, which was confined to a communal area on the second floor. Firefighters rescued two people by ladder from a second floor balcony, while two others were led to safety from another flat on the same floor.

Volunteers from the British Red Cross emergency response team based at Springbourne fire station attended the scene to support the terrified residents. Thankfully, all occupants were accounted for and no injuries were reported.

A resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “This fire had a devastating effect upon all of us residents.

“Thankfully the fire brigade arrived promptly after being called and the firefighters acted swiftly and efficiently to rescue the residents who were trapped in their homes.

“We were all so relieved that everyone was OK and that the fire was well contained by the building’s communal fire doors.

“It was a terrifying experience waking up in the middle of the night to find the building on fire and many of us had problems sleeping for weeks afterwards.”

Signal House is owned by Magna Housing and contains shared ownership flats over four floors. It was built in 2012 alongside affordable housing accommodation Bridge House.

Dorset Police appealed for anyone with any information to come forward following the incident and eventually arrested Everett. He pleaded guilty at Bournemouth Crown Court on Friday, October 23 to a charge of arson with intent to endanger life.

Detective Inspector Scott Johnson, of Weymouth CID, said: “I am pleased that through our investigation we were able to identify Everett and bring him before the courts for this offence.

“Thankfully nobody was injured during the incident, but Everett’s actions could have led to devastating consequences.”