A man who was visiting the property where the Hills fires are believed to have started says there was nothing he could do when a grassfire got out of control.
Lachlan Campbell arrived at his mother's Granite Road home in Parkerville about 11am, just before fire crews arrived.
He regretted not being able to extinguish the fire. It had started only minutes earlier.
Mr Campbell said there was no doubt the fire started at a power pole in the front paddock.
"I drove up Johnston Road and saw this huge plume on the property and thought 'Oh, God'," he said. "I saw a neighbour standing in the driveway and she said the pole had gone on fire."
After evacuating his family to a neighbour's house, Mr Campbell helped firefighters battle the grass fire with a hose pipe.
He said the fire was initially contained to a 10m area surrounding a power pole.
Neighbours joined the effort by putting out spot fires that threatened the house and shed.
Mr Campbell said it did not take long for a seemingly manageable fire to escalate beyond control. By then, he realised it was too late to contain the blaze.
"I was talking to a firefighter and it had only been five minutes and he said it was already into Sunninghall (equestrian centre)," he said.
Mr Campbell said he accepted there was nothing he could do once it headed away from his home, fanned by strong winds.
"The unfortunate thing was . . . it obviously only started really small, if we'd been able to put it out then none of that would have happened, but you can't be everywhere," he said.
"Like I said, it moved away from us so quickly."
The Campbell family home, while surrounded by black ash, was barely damaged by the fire.