A 30-year-old man has been charged with arson, two years after occupants of a Hamilton unit were left scrambling for their lives after it was set on fire.

The man, from Oromahoe in the Far North, appeared in the Hamilton District Court on Wednesday where he faced a charge of wilfully setting fire property endangering life on January 3, 2017.

The charge carries a maximum prison term of 14 years.

He was remanded without plea to reappear later this month.

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Neighbours of the Nixon St two-storey unit woke the sleeping family in time to escape with their lives about midnight shortly before flames started billowing out the windows.

The fire began in the upper, vacant, storey of the unit block.