• The pinkish red skies above Mallacoota mid-morning on Tuesday. (Twitter)Source: Twitter
4000 people are sheltering on a beach in Mallacoota from an out-of-control bushfire in Victoria's East Gippsland.
By
Jack Latimore

31 Dec 2019 - 9:31 AM  UPDATED 31 Dec 2019 - 10:26 AM

Around 4000 people took shelter on a beach and warf in the coastal holiday town of Mallacoota in Victoria's north east on Tuesday morning as an out-of-control bushfire encircled the town. 

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said three specialist emergency teams in Mallacoota would be "looking after" the people.

"We are naturally very concerned about communities that have become isolated and to get an appreciation about other losses there could be we'll be putting helicopters up doing reconnaissance flights," said Mr Crisp.

Extreme weather conditions in southern NSW and Victoria on Monday night fuelled bushfires in East Gippsland, with a number of properties lost, though authorities said it's still too early to confirm just how many.

Fires rapidly grew overnight due to winds and lightning strikes and have ripped through more than 200,000 hectares in Gunai-Kurnai Country in Victoria's east, it was estimated early on Tuesday morning.

Emergency warnings issued

Seven emergency warnings, the highest alert, remain in place across the region and there is another in place for a fire straddling the northeast Victoria-NSW border at Corryong/Walwa.

Incident controller Chris Eagle said that lightning in the region sparked "hundreds" of new fires overnight.

By Monday evening, as temperatures soared and the fires started creating their own weather systems, about 1000 firefighters were working on the blazes.

"We do know that the fire has increased immensely in size," Mr Eagle said.

"The satellite took an image of some of the heat tracks, it's several hours old now, but it's probably close to at least 60 per cent larger than it was yesterday."

Fire authorities give Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks the green light
The Sydney Harbour New Year's Eve fireworks display has been approved despite the state's deputy premier urging authorities to scrap the event.

Seven emergency warnings, the highest alert, remain in place across the region and there is another in place for a fire straddling the northeast Victoria-NSW border at Corryong/Walwa.

Incident controller Chris Eagle said that lightning in the region sparked "hundreds" of new fires overnight.

By Monday evening, as temperatures soared and the fires started creating their own weather systems, about 1000 firefighters were working on the blazes.

"We do know that the fire has increased immensely in size," Mr Eagle said.

"The satellite took an image of some of the heat tracks, it's several hours old now, but it's probably close to at least 60 per cent larger than it was yesterday."

Many of the fires in the region have merged overnight.

Towns including Cann River and Orbost had been impacted by the fire and impact assessment teams will be sent out to discover the extent of the damage.

Town perimeter defences were breached by fires in Bruthen on Monday around 9pm, the CFA said.

Roads closed

The Princes Highway is closed between Bairnsdale and Genoa.

The fire has also crossed Great Alpine Road at Ensay, with people in the area warned that mobile and landline phone coverage could be affected.

Thousands of properties are also without power because of the fires.

A cool change swept through the region after extreme heat on Monday, but windy conditions remain, further fuelling the fires and spreading ash.

Mr Eagle said because the fires were generating their own wind systems, it delayed the arrival of the cool change.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews attended a briefing at the State Control Centre, cutting short his holidays.

Fireworks displays planned in the region for New Year celebrations have been cancelled because of the fire risk.

Fallen firey named

A volunteer firefighter who died when his truck rolled at a NSW-Victoria border town has been named as 28-year-old Samuel McPaul.

The Holbrook-based man died when the truck in which he was travelling crashed on Monday just before 6pm at Jingellic, about 110km east of Albury.

The RFS said its initial understanding was that the truck rolled under extreme winds due to the 26,000-hectare Green Valley fire at Talmalmo.

Mr McPaul and his wife Megan were expecting their first child in May.

Mr McPaul is the third NSW volunteer firefighter to die this bushfire season.

Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O'Dwyer, 36, died on December 19 when a tree hit their tanker as they were travelling southwest of Sydney.

Southern NSW braces

Almost 100 blazes continue to burn across NSW, with dozens uncontained.

Extreme fire danger is forecast for NSW's Southern Ranges, Illawarra and the ACT on New Year's Eve while surrounding regions - including Sydney, the Hunter and the far south coast - are set for severe fire danger.

Strong westerly winds are expected, pushing fires east and placing coastal communities and holiday hotspots under threat.

The NSW Rural Fire Service said members of bushfire-prone communities near Batemans Bay and Bega should move to large towns away from bushland by 8am.

Total fire bans are in place for more than half of the state's 21 fire districts including Sydney.

Five blazes were on Tuesday at emergency level - one in the Snowy Valleys and the remainder around Bega and Batemans Bay.

The RFS on Tuesday said those fires "pose a serious threat to life" and motorists have been advised to avoid all non-essential travel.

The Dunns Road fire near Tumut and the Badja Forest Rd fire near Cooma appear set to be among the blazes to expand most significantly.

In Sydney on Tuesday, strong dry winds, poor air quality and temperatures touching 33C are expected while the city's west will surpass 40C.

Fire prediction maps suggest the Green Wattle Creek fire, which has already scorched 227,000 hectares, may cross the Hume Highway near Bowral.

Near the Charleys Forest blaze - an offshoot of the massive Currowan fire near Batemans Bay - boarding kennel operator Matthew Knight said he was preparing to evacuate for the third time this season.

While usually the busy season, Rovers Retreat has been at less than half capacity this Christmas due to the need to evacuate quickly.

"We're all girding our loins for tomorrow because it doesn't look good," the Rovers Retreat manager told AAP on Monday evening.

Gippsland Aboriginal medical service opens its doors as fires ravages Gunai-Kurnai Country
An evacuation centre has been set up by Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Co-Operative as bushfires tear through Victoria's eastern corner.

-with AAP