Crews assessing the fire’s effects in the Tathra area found at least 69 homes destroyed and dozens more damaged, he said.
Work crews were trying to get affected services like water, sewage and telecommunications up and running again, Mr. Fitzsimmons said.
“The worst of the weather is behind us, but clearly the devastation, damage and destruction is what everyone’s seeking to grapple with now,” he said.
While conditions had eased since Sunday, 63 firefighters and three firefighting planes were still in the field trying to manage the blaze, Greg Allan, a spokesman for the Rural Fire Service, said Monday morning. At the height of the fire, at least 150 firefighters were involved in the effort. Asbestos exposure was a concern, he said.
“The firefighters will be using the better conditions today to have the fire contained as soon as possible,” Mr. Allan said.
Residents in areas deemed safe were being allowed to return to their homes on Monday. Earlier in the day, at an evacuation center in Bega, more than 500 people had been anxiously waiting for updates.
Speaking there, Kristy McBain, mayor of the Bega Valley Shire Council, commended fire and police crews, saying, “The evacuation was coordinated the best it could have been.”
She said tightknit Tathra and Bega had already received hundreds of messages of support from people in surrounding communities offering help.
“I’m sure that we’ll come through this fine,” Ms. McBain said. “We’re a very resilient community.”
Still, for some of those affected, the damage seemed brutal.
“It was all gone within half an hour,” John Blankenstein told The Sydney Morning Herald as he looked at the scorched remains of his wife’s childhood home.
Other fires also raged in rural Victoria on Sunday, causing damage to at least 18 homes and 40 sheds and killing livestock in one of the season’s worst blazes.
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