Firebug-accused to remain behind bars as huge blaze burns

Ebor fire: Gavin James Gardiner refused bail in Armidale Local Court on Monday, charged with intentionally lighting Guyra Road fire at Ebor

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The Ebor local appeared via video link in court from prison on Monday, after his bid for bail was rejected two days earlier.

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THE man accused of lighting the Ebor fire to protect a hidden cannabis crop will remain behind bars until at least next month, after fronting court again.

Gavin James Gardiner appeared via video link in Armidale Local Court on Monday morning, but made no application for bail. It was formally refused by magistrate Michael Holmes.

Gardiner did not enter pleas to charges of intentionally causing fire and being reckless as to its spread; as well dishonestly for gain damaging property by fire.

Mr Holmes adjourned the case to early December, where it will be referred to the DPP to prosecute, ordering Gardiner be remanded in custody until then.

The 51-year-old has been in custody since his arrest at a hotel in Ebor about 2pm on Friday. He lodged a bid for bail on Saturday in court but it was denied by the registrar.

He 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 on Thursday night.

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 Thursday, about 10km west of the village.

The fire sparked an emergency warning when it took off in the dry conditions, after the village came under ember attack.

Police allege Gardiner made no attempt to control the blaze.

Police and emergency services had to doorknock across the town to warn residents to evacuate on Friday.

NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers and other firefighters also had to protect Gardiner's property when the fire threatened to engulf it.

The Ebor blaze had already burnt more than 11,600 hectares by late on Monday, after being downgraded from a watch-and-act alert on Sunday.

This article first appeard in the Northern Daily Leader

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