Wye River before and after the Christmas Day fire. Image: nearmap.com
The scale of devastation left in the wake of the Christmas Day fires has been revealed in aerial before-and-after images of Wye River and Separation Creek.
The photographs show small enclaves of houses surrounded by grassy backyards, green forest and windy roads were reduced to ash-grey rubble and charred earth.
Images of Wye River show at least fifteen houses were destroyed in a pocket of properties near a main road, while an aerial shot of a small area of Separation Creek shows the crumpled rooftops of another dozen homes.
Incredibly, a number of homes remained standing despite being surrounded by blackened grass - a testament to the efforts of firefighters.
The photos also show the difficult task fire crews faced trying to protect houses in dense bushland with limited road access.
Homes were lost in Separation Creek. Image: nearmap.com
The Great Ocean Road was fully opened on Wednesday after the bushfires forced the scenic route to be closed since Christmas Day.
Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said it was safe to reopen the road, which was critical for business and community.
"The Great Ocean Road will open from 8am Wednesday at a reduced speed and no vehicles will be allowed to stop between Cumberland River and Wye River bridge," Mr Lapsley said. "This includes look-out points and pull-over areas on the sides of the road."
Mr Lapsley said he wanted everyone to support local businesses and enjoy the area.
"But ...be aware that there is still a fire being worked on so people will see aircraft and trucks and at times, smoke," he said.
"Keep up to date with the latest warnings and advice and if you are travelling to the area, check the Fire Danger Ratings before you go and while you are there. Know where to get information from and what you will do if the situation changes."
Aerial images clearly show the devastation at Wye River. Image: nearmap.com
While visitors were welcome and encouraged to return to these areas, they should respect the privacy of residents and visitors who had been affected by the fire, Mr Lapsley said.
The road block on the Great Ocean Rd at Skene's Creek will be removed from Wednesday Photo: Penny Stephens
Authorities renamed the fire – from the Lorne-Jamieson Track fire to the Wye River-Jamieson Track fire – on Friday in an effort to reassure tourists.
Mr Lapsley said the focus had been on controlling the fire and returning residents to their homes.
"Over the past few days we have seen the reopening of Kennett River and Cumberland River, including for campers, and residents safely returned to some homes in the Wye River and Separation Creek areas. Our thoughts are with those who cannot return to their homes or properties because of safety issues. There is still a lot of work to do in this space and we will continue to work with these communities."
Burnt out scrub on the Great Ocean Road between Wye River and Apollo Bay. Photo: Penny Stephens
Mr Lapsley said rehousing residents and reopening roads had been a huge logistical exercise and joint effort between agencies, local council, government, business and community.
"After a fire it is not as simple as saying the fire activity has subsided so we will reopen the road or a town," he said.
"Building surveyors need to undertake assessments, infrastructure needs to be replaced and hazardous trees need to be looked at or removed - first and foremost it is about safety."
Fires burn near Wye River and Seperation creek by popular tourist destination on the Great Ocean Road on December 25, 2015 Photo: Mathew Lynn
Visitors have been asked to stay informed about the latest warnings and advice by visiting emergency.vic.gov.au, or tune to ABC Local Radio, commercial and designated community radio stations, or Sky News TV.
They could also call the Victorian Bushfire Information Line (VBIL) on freecall 1800 240 667, download the FireReady App and set up a Watch Zone or follow VicEmergency on Twitter (#VicFires) or Facebook.
Visitors can go to Cumberland River Holiday Park, Big4 Wye River Holiday Park, Wye River Foreshore Camping Reserve, Wye General Store and Café, Wye Beach Hotel and other businesses.
However, there is restricted access to residential areas in Wye River North and Separation Creek.
Traffic Management Points will be in place at The Boulevard and Wallace Street in Wye River and Stanway Drive and Sarsfield Street in Separation Creek. Residents of these areas have been granted limited access. These areas would also be temporarily fenced and marked with safety messaging and will be patrolled day and night. There is no public access to these areas.
Some sections of the Great Otway National Park remain closed south of Lorne through to Skenes Creek. Benwerrin-Mt Sabine Road remains closed from Grey River Road to Erskine Falls Road.
If local residents or visitors near fire-affected areas on the Great Ocean Road see wildlife that appear injured or distressed, they should contact the Wildlife Welfare Officer on 5233 5565