Vic fire crisis eases, but warnings remain

Marnie Banger and Roger Vaughan
Favourable weather has given a reprieve to firefighters in Victoria

Boasting blue skies and sunshine, the town of Bright in Victoria's northeast couldn't have demonstrated more clearly on Saturday that it avoided the threat of fires that it had faced the day before.

Most residents in Victoria's bushfire-stricken areas were granted a similar reprieve after hot temperatures and gusty winds wrought less carnage than feared on Friday.

While an emergency warning remains for a fire near Mt Hotham, the government has confirmed the Victorian state of disaster will end at midnight on Saturday.

But authorities stress the danger is far from over as 20 fires burn across the state and 12 'watch and act' warnings - down from 16 on Saturday morning - remain in place.

Even the welcome rain that fell in some areas from Friday night brings its own problems, with the chance of flash flooding meaning a new deadly risk for firefighters.

Milder conditions are forecast for the next week to 10 days, meaning attention can turn increasingly to recovery and relieving exhausted emergency services workers.

The improved conditions brought relief in towns along the Great Alpine Road, which were largely deserted ahead of Friday's hot weather and gusty late cool change.

Dianne Gibbons, owner of Harrietville's Bella's Cafe, had filled wheelie bins and buckets with water and had a sprinkler system ready if embers reached the town on Friday evening.

But she said rain struck at the "just the perfect time", with the easing of an emergency warning about 11pm allowing them some sleep.

"We started hearing that rain and we thought oh yeah, just keep bringing it on," she told AAP.

Despite the reprieve, some local businesses are worried tourists could stay out of Bright and its surrounds for weeks or months more.

Owner of the women's clothing store Chooks, Bernadette Harrington-McNally, said it was "annoying" the area was being perceived as so dangerous when it hasn't seen a flame.

"No one is going to come back, I don't know when they are going to come back," she told AAP.

Firefighters worked through Friday night to contain blazes raging in the alpine and East Gippsland regions.

A grass fire near Wodonga destroyed two buildings, but that was brought under control.

Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville and Emergency Services Commissioner Andrew Crisp said on Saturday morning that the conditions were varied, noting some of the northeast had received little rain and there were strong southerly winds.

While East Bairnsdale received a rain dump of about 18mm, the town of Mallacoota only received 2mm.

"It is a tale of two states at the moment in terms of temperature and conditions," Mr Crisp said.

The minister said two fires covering about 800 hectares in NSW and northeast Victoria had joined. Meanwhile the East Gippsland fire area covered about 900,000 hectares.

"We're a long way from the end of this ... we have a long way to go in terms of our fire season," the minister said.

Authorities will spend the next few days trying to open the road into Mallacoota, which has been cut off for a week.

A specialist army vehicle drove the road on Friday to assess the damage.

More than 1.3 million hectares have been razed since November 21.

The fires in Victoria have killed three men, while 286 homes and 400 other buildings have been damaged.