Victoria residents assess fire's damage

Emergency services workers inspect Separation Creek in the Otway Ranges south of Melbourne (AAP)
Emergency services workers inspect Separation Creek in the Otway Ranges south of Melbourne (AAP)

Devastated residents in Victoria have been allowed to return to their homes left ravaged by Christmas Day bushfires.

They were bussed in to assess the damage, as the first pictures emerged from inside the worst-affected communities.

It was a Sunday drive to Victoria's new form of hell, inside the fire zone. Around every corner, behind every blackened tree, was another home reduced to ash and rubble.

The only stop was to view a burnt-out car, going nowhere again fast.

And it was all because of an out-of-control raging fire, started by a lightning strike a week ago – the first blaze in this bush since 1962.

In total, it's claimed 98 homes in Wye River – about a third of the township – and 18 homes in Separation Creek.

The Great Ocean Road is now a ribbon of bitumen, through charred and smouldering bush.

At this time of year, it's normally jam-packed, with bumper-to-bumper cars. Now it is eerily deserted, like the beaches.

But evacuation centres are filled, chock-a-block. Some residents are opting sleep outside with their rescued animals. It's stressful and sad, and nights are sleepless.

While the immediate danger is over, the area is now full of hazards, downed power lines, charred and weakened trees and the possibility of landslips.

"We have assessed the majority of trees in the area, pulled them down," says firefighter Anna Cuttriss. "They are not as bad as they were, but having said that in the coming days the ones that do continue to burn and if the winds pick up they can become quite dangerous."

But in the midst of so much devastation, there is one story of hope. A koala was found at Wye River, weak and unresponsive. Police helped nurse her back to health.

She's been nicknamed Constable K Bear, now an honorary member of the local fire station.

3 News