Community plan saved Vic bushfire towns

By Angus Livingston
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Vic residents return to see bushfire ruins

Residents will be returning to see their ruined towns after a Christmas bushfire in Victoria.

A 30-year-old fire plan has saved two Victorian holiday towns from being wiped out in devastating Christmas Day bushfires.

More than 100 houses were destroyed in the Great Ocean Road towns of Wye River and Separation Creek but authorities have praised local volunteers for preventing an even bigger disaster.

"I would have thought they would have lost at least 200 homes in this town," Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley told reporters on Sunday.

"This brigade, this community, actually had a community plan that had planned for many years about a fire coming into Wye River. This is not new to them."

Local CFA brigade captain Roy Moriarty said Wye River's fire safety plan - first written in 1984 - had helped save the town.

"I couldn't believe that we've saved as many houses as what we've saved," he told reporters.

"I did expect three times more than that to go, at least."

Mr Moriarty said when home-owners contacted him, he gave it to them straight.

"You've got to tell them - if their house is gone, their house is gone," he said.

Mr Lapsley said power companies were working to secure fallen lines, while firefighters were watching for trees that could come down.

The Insurance Council of Australia estimate initial insurance losses at $25 million.

No one died in the fires, although three firefighters suffered minor injuries.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said residents had shown courage in the face of the adversity.

"People were looking out for each other and there was a sense of love and care and compassion," he told Network Seven.

Those affected will soon be able to access up to $1300 in emergency relief funds.

Surf Coast shire councillor Clive Goldsworthy said the Spirit Foundation was set up in 2013 to help locals in need.

"We see this as part of Lorne community - we dodged the bullet and unfortunately Wye River and Separation Creek didn't," he told ABC 24.

Victoria expects cooler weather on Monday but the fire danger rating will rise again on New Year's Eve when it hits 37C.