VICTORIAN Premier Daniel Andrews has upped the ante on pleas for residents in the North-East fire zones to leave before the latest round of severe weather hits on Friday.
Strongly worded text messages were sent out across the fire zones including the Upper Murray and Ovens and King valleys, warning people to leave before a day when temperatures will climb into the 40s with accompanying strong winds.
A total fire ban is in place for North-East Victoria.
Mr Andrews was joined in Wodonga on Thursday by Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp to implore people to act on the advice as a state of disaster was extended for another 48 hours in local government areas including Towong, Alpine, Wangaratta and the alpine resorts of Mount Hotham and Falls Creek.
"Look, we can rebuild houses, we can rebuild sheds, but we can't be undoing the tragedy that can befall you, if you find yourself in the middle of one of these fire zones that are an absolute inferno," Mr Andrews said.
"This is a difficult balancing act.
"People have the right to protect their own property, but in putting that plan in place they also have to respectfully submit (and) make a judgment if this fire is so severe, creating its own weather with convection columns that is almost molten tornado, that might be something that is well beyond the planning you've done."
OTHER FIRE COVERAGE
Mr Andrews said some East Gippsland residents he had spoken to since last Saturday's "spike day" wished they had evacuated and not stayed to defend properties, such was the ferocity of the fire.
"It's unprecedented and that is why we are using unprecedented language and unprecedented powers to keep people safe," he said.
"We've never had a fire edge as big as this, we've never had 1.2-plus million hectares burnt out in the first week of January."
An "evacuate now" message was issued at 5pm on Thursday for King Valley communities including Bennies, Cheshunt South, Markous, Rose River, Top Crossing, Wabonga and Upper Rose River after the Abbeyard fire escaped on the western flank.
Mr Andrews also met with Towong Shire representatives on Thursday and vowed to support the small council area recover when the fires were finally out.
"We won't be leaving it to local government because it will be beyond them," he said.
"The important thing here is I've had a number of conversations with (Prime Minister) Scott Morrison about the sort of areas they are going to take care of.
"They are going to look after small business, income support, tourism, trying to get stimulus back into local economies, but roads and bridges, we might share some of that work."
An immediate need raised by Towong Shire chief executive Juliana Phelps was support for the disposal of dead livestock.
Towong was also the beneficiary of an immediate $1 million grant from the federal government announced on Thursday.
Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said Towong would be able to choose the best way to use the money.
"This means locals can get out and rebuild what's important to people in the Towong LGA," she said.
"This could go into rebuilding or improving roads and other community infrastructure.
"It can also go to hiring staff to help with the recovery, or staging local events to attract more tourists and business to the Upper Murray.
"This will help get the local economy moving which will help speed up recovery in the Towong area."
Mr Crisp said residents needed to remain vigilant all day on Friday.
"It will be hot, it will be dry, we will have those northerlies," he said.
"The change won't get through to the North-East until 8-9pm and on the change we know if we've got active fire edge and the south-westerly comes, the flank of the fire becomes the head of the fire.
"Yes, there could be significant challenge for us and if you've got the text message, if you can, you should leave."