A MAN will spend the festive season in custody, accused of deliberately lighting a bushfire that spiralled out of control and threatened homes east of Armidale.
Gavin James Gardiner is accused of sparking the massive Guyra Road, Ebor, fire that eventually burnt more than 22,800 hectares.
Gardiner is yet to enter pleas to charges of of intentionally causing fire and being reckless as to its spread; as well dishonestly for gain damaging property by fire.
But in Armidale Local Court, magistrate Michael Holmes has ordered police to compile a brief of evidence and serve it on Gardiner's defence team before the case returns to court next year.
Gardiner made no fresh bid for bail and it was formally refused. The case was adjourned to early-February.
The 51-year-old has been in custody since his arrest at a hotel in Ebor on November 15 - a day after the fire was allegedly sparked. He lodged a bid for bail after his arrest, but it was denied in an out-of-sessions bail hearing in court.
Gardiner faces up to 21 years' imprisonment if he is convicted of intentionally lighting the fire - which police claim he did during a total fire ban.
Detectives allege Gardiner did so to backburn around a cannabis crop, and also because he would gain from doing jobs during the recovery efforts.
It's the police case that Gardiner deliberately set fire to bushland off Guyra Road about 5pm on November 14, about 10km west of Ebor village.
Police allege he made no attempt to control the blaze.
The fire sparked an emergency warning when it got out of control and the village came under ember attack.
Police and emergency services had to go door-to-door to warn residents to evacuate a day after the ignition, after it took off in hot and dry conditions.
NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers and other firefighters had to protect Gardiner's property when the fire threatened to engulf it.