Sixteen residents had to be evacuated and damage estimated at £100,000 was caused after rubbish was deliberately set alight in Motherwell town centre.
At Hamilton Sheriff Court, Lawrence Robinson (32), a prisoner, admitted wilfully starting the blaze in Menteith Court on December 21.
Imran Bashir, prosecuting, said the accused was seen on CCTV buying items at Asda at 1.39am. Minutes later another camera captured him in Menteith Court “igniting items” in bins and walking away.
At 2.36am police officers noticed smoke coming from the block and saw “numerous” bins were on fire and that access to the flats was “completely restricted”.
Mr Bashir told the court: “Smoke was billowing, but the officers climbed a rear wall and managed to evacuate 16 residents from the six flats. Firefighters attended and the flames were extinguished.
“The housing association, which owns the flats, estimates damage at £100,000. That includes damage to external brickwork, windows, drainage pipes, cladding and possibly structural damage. There was smoke damage to a close ceiling.
“Had the police officers not spotted the smoke there would, undeniably, have been danger to the residents.”
Robinson was arrested after returning to Asda the next morning and being recognised by a security officer.
He told police officers he had been “a bit bored” and got “these urges”, but claimed he wouldn’t have started the fire had he known there were people in flats nearby.
Defence agent Margaret Chalmers said: “There was no accelerant involved. It was just a lighter. He didn’t even wait to see if the fire had developed. He just walked away. He doesn’t get any form of enjoyment out of this. He can’t explain it.”
Mrs Chalmers said her client had a long history of substance abuse and lived a “nomadic” existence.
Sheriff Douglas Brown deferred sentence for social work reports until March 16 and Robinson was remanded in custody.