The owner of a service station in the state’s central west who claimed he was gagged and bound while his business was set alight has been charged with starting the blaze, police say.

The fire on May 19 completely destroyed the service station at Mount Lambie, on the Great Western Highway between Bathurst and Lithgow, and caused an estimated $1.5 million in damage.

The owner allegedly told police he was closing early on the unusually quiet Saturday night and was recounting the day’s taking when he heard a knock at the door.

He told officers two men forced him to the ground and tied him up, before they set fire to the business, police said.

Three motorists stopped when they saw the fire and found the owner behind a compost heap about 30 metres from the truck stop.

Property Crime Squad detectives yesterday arrested the 56-year-old owner at Wells Crossing, north of Coffs Harbour, police said.

He was charged with dishonestly for gain destroy property by fire and intentionally destroy property by fire.

He is due to face Grafton Local Court on September 10.