Teenager Dyson Allen had always been obsessed with fire.
Years before starting the blaze which would have tragic consequences for four siblings in Freckleton, he was implicated in a fire which started in a locker at Lytham St Annes High School, where he was a 15-year-old pupil at the time.
One New Year’s Eve he lit an aerosol using it like a flame thrower to set fire to a shoe and golf club.
He would build bonfires once using stolen fence panels, even receiving a youth referral order from police.
During the six-week trial, several witnesses told the jury about the 19-year-old’s fascination with flames.
A friend said the pair used to regularly start bonfires, on one occasion resulting in Allen being hospitalised with facial burns, while he was also said to have had a ‘party trick’ of lighting aerosols.
But these were comparatively small incidents. Mercifully, they hurt no-one but Allen himself.
On January 7, 2012, Reece, Ella, Holly and Jordan Smith would not be so lucky.
In starting the blaze in a wardrobe at the Freckleton home where he had become known as a friend, Allen devastated the same family which had given him help and accommodation.
The night of the fire he had already been drinking Cheeky Vimto – a fizzy version of the fruit drink topped up with vodka at Michelle’s 36th birthday party.
Allen, then 18, was a friend of another of Michelle’s 17-year-old son, Andrew, and the car mechanic kept some of his belongings in the younger children’s bedroom.
On the night of the fire, Allen had been drinking vodka since lunchtime, and later in the evening was believed to have preparing to smoke cannabis.
When the fire began to wreak its terrible toll,he was the first to raise the alarm, running to a neighbour to demand a mobile phone.
Michelle only became aware of what was happening when she heard Allen running downstairs shouting “Fire!”
But despite Allen trying to get help, things did not add up to police who believed he lied about the time he was alone upstairs in the room next to the sleeping children.
He had a reason to go into the children’s room – his bag of clothes were there.
It was there his obsession of playing with fire had its appalling tragic ending.