North East residents near the Upper Murray fire are at the mercy of the weather and facing an extremely nervous wait in coming days, with authorities warning the fire cannot be stopped.
About 200 attendees at a Tallangatta meeting were on Thursday told firefighters weren't actively battling the blaze, which has burnt through 120,000 hectares since Sunday and destroyed more than 15 homes.
Deputy Incident Controller Ron Patterson said there was no way of stopping the blaze in these conditions.
"We do not have anyone out there actively suppressing this fire," Mr Patterson said.
"All we are doing at the moment is asset protection and (protecting) the priority of life.
"This is going to go on for some time.
"I make no bones about it - anywhere in Tallangatta Valley, Shelley, Koetong, Darbyshire, Dartmouth, Mitta, there is a potential threat because the fire is still burning and we will have no way of stopping it in these conditions."
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An extreme fire danger rating is forecast for Saturday - the second highest level - with stronger winds and temperatures above 40 degrees.
Water bombers have been unable to fly due to heavy smoke - much to the frustration of pilot Graeme Menere, who lives at Lucyvale with his wife Margaret.
Mr Menere was one of many who on Thursday told The Border Mail there was little he could do but wait and see how things played out.
"It's the stress of the unknown," he said.
"Unfortunately there are a lot of elderly people up our way, a lot of retirees, who wouldn't leave."
Police Inspector Luke Kirton urged people to evacuate and said the fire had caused "really significant" devastation.
"(It's a) very rapidly moving fire system that could actually carry distances that have to be seen to be believed," he said.
"We're getting ember attacks several kilometres in front of fire fronts.
"As soon as they hit the ground, everything's so dry, it's just going up like timber.
"Even if you are well prepared, (ask) whether you are prepared to take on something as big and ferocious as that.
"Because a lot of people have already tried and haven't been successful."
The best plan was to leave early, he warned.
Cuts to already patchy phone services and electricity has made it hard for many to access information.
People are urged to keep up to date with multiple sources of information, particularly battery powered radio or car radio.
Towong mayor David Wortmann said he "can't emphasise enough how serious this situation is", with already extensive damage.
"The recovery part of this situation will go on, it will take years," he said.
"I've been to the Upper Murray and you'd have to see it to believe it.
Tallangatta man Peter Lovell was feeling nervous.
"If the wind changes, we could be in trouble," he said.
Xavier Kirk, who lives at Old Tallangatta, agreed.
"It's only going to take a wind change and who knows what's going to happen.
"I was in Mt Alfred, Guys Forest and Burrowye Monday afternoon.
"To see how quick things developed there was unbelievable."
The Albury showgrounds have opened as a camping area, with a relief centre running at Tallangatta, and camping at Wodonga showgrounds.