Fire came terrifyingly close to Wodonga homes on Friday night as savage winds fuelled an out-of-control blaze in the city's hills.
A 250-hectare fire broke out and spread to Bears Hill, about 5km south of Wodonga, just after 7pm, also threatening parts of Baranduda, Killara, Leneva and Bandiana.
The fire originated at Beechworth-Wodonga Road, Wodonga, burning near Bandiana army land and onto Bears Hill, travelling in an easterly direction towards Baranduda and Killara.
Leneva resident Jason Cox said lightning was occurring in the region just before the fire started.
Mr Cox said it was scary to watch the fire come so close to houses - including his in Kinchington Estate.
"It ripped through the paddocks behind us in 15 to 30 minutes, and within an hour it was climbing gradually up and over the hills and they were just glowing," he said.
"It's absolutely crazy. I've never seen anything go up so quickly... and it had little fire tornado things come through, the wind was whipping like crazy all around."
Wodonga Council reopened the Cube relief centre on Hovell Street "as a place of refuge" but said they were not expecting to be offering overnight accommodation.
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Multiple aircraft were called in to assess and help control the blaze, while an emergency warning was issued for parts of Baranduda, Killara, Leneva, Bandiana and Wodonga but by 10pm the message was downgraded to a watch and act. At that time the fire was not yet under control.
Mr Cox said the majority of his neighbours had evacuated and his wife had been told not to return home, but he was going to stay put unless the wind changed.
The Bureau of Meteorology recorded peak wind gusts of 76 kilometres per hour at Albury airport on Friday.
More than 200 residents across Bonegilla, Baranduda and surrounds lost power.
A firebreak was bulldozed into a paddock 500 metres from his house, he said, while the fire on the hills was only 800 metres from his doorstep.
He said witnessing this fire and the severe winds made him understand what fire fighters mean when they say a blaze was unpredictable.
"It burnt through the paddocks across the road from us, it just ripped through," he said. "The wind was going away from our house, but then it would flare up and look like it was coming towards us, then die down again.
"It's surreal really, everyone was in the street, it's crazy to see everyone out and concerned. I wouldn't have though at 5pm when I finished work that this is what I'd be doing tonight."