Residents of the Victorian town of Ouyen faced a bushfire emergency when most people were tucked up in bed asleep.
An emergency warning was issued in the early hours of Saturday for Ouyen's 1000 residents when the blaze raced out of the Bronzewing Flora and Fauna Reserve and towards the town.
Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said it was a serious situation.
"The fire looked extremely large in the sense that the glow in the sky was huge and showing up for many kilometres," he said.
"We were lucky the fire didn't come to the outskirts of Ouyen but it certainly was considered as a serious threat."
Mr Lapsley said that most of the time, emergency warnings were issued and people told to enact their bushfire plans during the day.
He said Ouyen faced the added complexity that the town was under threat in the dark.
"I think that's very difficult for communities to understand. (It's) very difficult to warn people when they've actually gone to bed and very difficult for people to orientate themselves on what action they should take when it's in the night hours."
State fire controller Alan Goodwin said the fire, a few kilometres south of Ouyen in the state's northwest, was very active after a wind change on Friday night.
"It made some runs on that wind but our firefighters were able to pick it up very quickly and contain it as it came out of the forest," Mr Goodwin said.
The blaze is one of several in the Mallee region, which have burned more than 60,000 hectares.