The rain required to completely extinguish a blaze on Victoria’s surf coast could be months away.
The destructive bushfire claimed 116 homes in Wye River and Separation Creek on Christmas Day and it sparked up again in 40C temperatures on Thursday.
Residents of Kennett River, Grey River and Wongarra began to evacuate but were then allowed to go home for New Year’s Eve after a wind change pushed the destructive fire back into dense and mountainous bushland.
The blaze is not yet under control.
Fire crews continue working to contain it and are hopeful that can be achieved within days or a week.
But difficult terrain in the area means the fire won’t be completely extinguished until significant rainfall comes through, deputy incident controller David Rourke said.
“The only way we can be assured it is extinguished is through significant, soaking rain over an extended period of time,” he told AAP on Saturday.
That rain is unlikely to happen in January or February, but it may come with the autumn break in March or April, Mr Rourke said.
“We can’t declare the fire safe until that time,” he said.
“It’s going to be there for a while and we will have to continue to monitor it and patrol it and have significant resources committed on more severe fire weather days.”
Cooler conditions in recent days have provided some reprieve to crews working to get control lines established.
The next cycle of warm weather appeared likely to arrive next weekend, Mr Rourke said.
“It still has the potential for making runs on significant fire weather days,” he said of the blaze.
Teams are also assessing Wye River and Separation Creek, checking for asbestos, septic tank damage, dangerous trees and risk of landslides.
A community meeting on Sunday will update residents about when they may be able to return home.
A fundraising fire relief concert will also be held in Lorne on Sunday.
Lorne and Apollo Bay are safe and open for business, incident controller Alistair Drayton said.
“Visitors aren’t just welcome, but vital to the local economy,” he said in a statement.