A father who torched his family home two days before Christmas may be out just in time for the holiday this year.

Robert George Anton Carlsen, 48, pleaded guilty in the West Australian Supreme Court to criminal damage by fire and threat to unlawfully damage, after he burnt down the Waikiki house occupied by his estranged wife and their children aged six, nine and 11 on December 23 last year.

The month prior, Carlsen had separated from his wife after their relationship was strained by his alcohol use and fly-in fly-out work schedule. But he had returned to the house, staying in their son's bedroom as they prepared it for sale.

An argument broke out between he and his estranged wife after he had been drinking at the pub.

"Indeed, you had been on a bender some days leading up to this offence involving the use not only of alcohol but also of drugs, amphetamines," Justice Ralph Simmonds said last week in sentencing Carlsen.

During the argument, he picked up an axe from the shed, telling his wife he was going to smash her car and making an action as if to strike her with it but did not follow through with either act.

Instead, he grabbed a jerry can and poured petrol on the marital bed.

In the meantime, his wife had contacted police and Carlsen was taken to Rockingham Hospital for assessment.

He was given a sedative and allowed to leave, despite having a blood alcohol level of 0.124 per cent.

Carlsen then returned home and set fire to the bed.

His wife fled with the children and their Christmas presents.

The house was destroyed, with the damage estimated in the order of $333,000.

Justice Simmonds said Carlsen had stopped taking antidepressant medication in the lead up to the offence and that was a contributing factor.

Carlsen was sentenced to two years in jail and will be eligible for parole after serving half of his term on December 24.

- AAP

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