There are suggestions that rural firefighters on the New South Wales south coast refused help from outside fire brigades before the Tathra fire got out of control.
Incident logs reveal brigades from outside the area twice offered assistance when Triple-0 emergency calls began flooding in, but were rejected before the rural fire service issued a priority request for all available help about 3.40pm on Sunday, the Nine Network reports.
Nearly 100 properties - houses, caravans and cabins - were incinerated by the blaze, powered by dry, gusty winds and high temperatures.
Residents had to flee via the beach.
Displaced residents of the town are bracing for the worst ahead of their expected first look at what the bushfire left in its wake.
It is understood some people may be escorted around the area today to see the damage, but won't be allowed to return amid safety concerns such as exposed asbestos, fallen power lines, unstable structures and other hazards.
Hundreds who evacuated remained at a pop-up recovery centre at nearby Bega, under the care of charities and volunteers.
"I look at the faces in here and I see worry," one displaced resident, standing in a corner of the rescue centre, told AAP.
"They're wondering what's next."
Ember attacks randomly reduced some houses to twisted tin and blackened rubble while others, sometimes next door, were untouched.
Exploded gas bottles appeared to send glass and debris, including asbestos, onto streets, while a large kangaroo lay dead in a gutter beside a scorched home.
Cooler weather overnight and today is set to help firefighters gain control of the blaze, which has so far burnt through more than 1200ha of bush.
Fire activity has eased but crews are still working to contain it. One of the few residents who stayed behind drove the empty streets yesterday, her hand covering her mouth in disbelief as she passed the flattened properties.
In the recovery centre, those who escaped tried to spot their homes on looping news broadcasts or in aerial footage online.
"Most people don't know if their house is still there," Troy told Sky News. "What am I going to get when I get around the corner? Am I going to see a building? Am I going to see bricks? Am I going to see just nothing?"