About half of residents in remote Upper Murray towns have ignored warnings to leave their properties, as authorities warn bushfires could continue for months.
Those in areas between separate fires in the Corryong and Tumbarumba region are of particular concern, with the fires likely to merge.
The heavy smoke blanketing the North East yesterday caused the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to cancel a planned visit to the Tallangatta Incident Control Centre.
Mr Andrews visited his home town of Wangaratta about 1.30pm on Sunday and had planned to fly into Tallangatta to get an aerial view of the fire-affected region, but his flight was grounded.
He said it simply would not have been safe to fly through the thick smoke.
"I've been down in Wangaratta many many times and I have never seen my hometown like that before," he said. "Smoke - that red haze - it's a real cause for concern. I'm sure making many people right throughout the North East, whether you're in the fire impact zone or on the edge of it, are very, very anxious and very, very concerned for their safety and the safety of those close to them."
Mr Andrews visited the police operations centre in Wangaratta and praised the work of officers co-ordinating evacuations and traffic management while undertaking existing policing duties.
"They're doing us proud," he said.
Mr Andrews said firefighters were still facing significant challenges.
Authorities hold grave concerns for residents in small towns between large fires, with hundreds of people ignoring warnings to leave.
Incident Controller Leith McKenzie said about half of those living between the Upper Murray blaze, and fires burning nearby in NSW, had chosen to stay.
The fires are tipped to merge, forming a blaze covering hundreds-of-thousands of hectares, but it is unclear when this will happen.
Colder weather and rainfall following record-breaking temperatures on Saturday had done little to stem the fires, he said.
Faye Nicholas, 60, fled her Berringama home with her husband Geoff, 78, on Monday.
But her husband drove six hours through pine plantations to return to their property, and has since been hard to reach.
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Ms Nicholas said poor phone coverage and an inability to access the area meant many didn't realise the seriousness of the situation.
The fires are likely to burn for months and authorities say when the different bushfires merge, it will happen quickly.
"I'm very frustrated," she said at a community meeting in Tallangatta on Sunday.
"It's just the communication situation - mobile phones don't work there.
"We have a landline which has been out since Monday.
"They're stubborn and they don't want to move.
"They're defending their life and that's what they know."
Ms Nicholas said "I want him out" and urged authorities to let people know the danger they faced.
"People who are still in there ... it's so smokey, they don't know where (the fire) is."
Deputy Incident Controller Dave Jenson said authorities were doing doorknocks and said there was no guarantee people could be saved in a fire.
"People need to to make their own decisions of when they leave," he said.
"We can't guarantee we can provide safety and services to those who decide to stay.
"If people are in contact with their loved ones and their family, they need to be getting the message out that that is the message."
Attendees at the meeting gasped when shown the extent of the fire.
NSW firefighters are working to prevent the blaze travelling to Holbrook.