The Country Fire Authority is battling a large and out-of-control fire at Licola, about 90 kilometres north of Sale. It told residents of that town just after 6.30am on Friday morning that it was too late to leave.
The town has been isolated by fire.
Communities about 40 kilometres south of Licola in the Glenmaggie area - including Seaton, Dawson, Heyfield, Toongabbie, Cowwarr, Lake Glenmaggie and Glenmaggie - are under direct threat. Water-bombing operations in the area have begun.
Towns also face the prospect of spot fires occurring, where embers jump from the main fire and spark new blazes.
‘‘We are hearing news that the fire has left the forest and has started to impact on homes in Seaton in particular,’’ a CFA spokesman said earlier on Friday. ‘‘Homes are under threat.’’
Alison Acres, from the Timberline general store in Heyfield, said three people come in to the store on Friday morning saying they had lost their homes.
‘‘It’s pretty dark here, it’s pretty scary actually,’’ she told radio station 3AW. ‘‘We’ve had alerts going since 2.30 this morning because we’ve been under ember attack, with fires striking up all around.
‘‘We have a little glimpse of light [from the sun rising] Traralgon way, and a little glimpse of light to our right but we’re under a very, very black Doomsday cloud at the moment.
‘‘We’ve got a lot of ash and leaves and debris falling from the sky.’’
She said there were reports of properties destroyed and the closest fire to Heyfield had struck about 2.5kms from the town.
‘‘We’ve had locals coming in saying they’ve lost their houses already. I’ve had three in the past 40 minutes come in and say they’ve lost their homes [in Seaton, a town of 215], so it’s pretty scary,’’ she said.
Ms Acres said she had not left because the store was supplying fuel for the CFA trucks.
Jeremiah, at the Commercial Hotel in Heyfield, said it was known that houses had gone in Seaton.
‘‘We’re running around like flies here. We’ve got a lot of people come in from Heyfield, Seaton and Coongulla - they’ve just been removed from the area,’’ he told 3AW.
‘‘We know that some houses have gone in Seaton; the people that have come in here have got out before the fires.’’
Residents are advised to be vigilant, the CFA spokesman said, because the fire was ‘‘very active’’ and was spotting unpredictably.
‘‘It is causing all sorts of problems at the moment,’’ he said.
Residents in Maffra, Sale, Rosedale, Stratford and between Cowwarr and Briagolong have been told not to phone triple-0 unless they can see flames. Smoke and ash is visible in the area.
The fire began in the eastern part of the Baw Baw National Park.
Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster James Taylor said hot weather overnight combined with gale force winds forecast to hit the region on Friday morning were concerning.
A total fire ban has been declared for the West and South Gippsland, north east, northern country and East Gippsland districts for Friday.