One man learnt his holiday home was up in flames when he saw dramatic pictures of the blaze that destroyed 16 houses in Victoria's west flash on television.
Others touched by the Dereel fire had to wait it out until roads were safe enough to find out if their homes still stood.
So far 16 houses and 18 outbuildings have been confirmed lost in the blaze, about 100km west of Melbourne.
CFA deputy incident controller Trevor Dess said strong wind gusts had caused continuous spotting of the 1300-hectare fire over containment lines but crews were working to control them.
"We're confident we'll get around it," Mr Dess said.
"It's nothing people need worry about."
Authorities are continuing to revise damage estimates as they gain access to more properties.
The suspicious fire spread rapidly, causing residents to pack up and flee for safety, after it ignited about 11.30am (AEDT) on Wednesday.
At its peak, the fire reached a catastrophic code red category - Victoria's highest fire alert - for 45 minutes.
The fire has burnt farmland and scrub country, most of which is private land.
Frank Degroot of Geelong spent every weekend for a year building a holiday home with his father, only to see it engulfed in flames on the television news.
"The flames have ripped through the house but the water tanker's still full of water. That's ironic," he said.
Mr Degroot said there was nothing of sentimental value lost, but the home hosted some great memories.
"My father and I spent 12 months every single weekend building it.
"He was quite upset about it."
Loretta Butler lost her sheds and chooks and her husband Rob was taken to hospital with smoke inhalation.
Her house was a bit scorched but otherwise fine.
"There's a lot of people that have lost everything, both sides of us have lost, and across the road," she said.
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine toured the affected area and said police were investigating allegations the fire was deliberately lit.
"In the general sense let me say that arson is absolutely disgraceful behaviour, unacceptable behaviour, to put lives at risk, put properties at risk." he said.
Four firefighters injured after their fire truck slammed into a tree in thick smoke during the firefight have been released from hospital with minor burns.
The government has announced emergency financial assistance will be made available to Victorians significantly affected by the Dereel fire.