The town of Batlow, near Tumut, was almost completely deserted on Friday afternoon after the NSW Rural Fire Service earlier urged people to leave, describing the town famous for its apples as "not defendable".
But a handful of Batlow's 1300 or so residents decided to stay and attempt to save their properties.
The Rural Fire Service had advised Batlow and Wondalga residents to leave, warning: "You should not be in this area on Saturday".
But late on Friday the Dunns Road fire was upgraded to emergency level and people in the Batlow area were told it was now too late to leave. The fire was later downgraded to watch and act about 8.30pm.
At the Batlow Fire Station on Friday afternoon, Fire and Rescue NSW Inspector Dean Campbell said a "strike team" of six trucks would be in place in the town on what was expected to be a "horrendous day" on Saturday.
Inspector Campbell said he had been going from one fire to the next since October, when he was at the Glen Innes fires, and the conditions forecast for the Batlow area on Saturday were up there with the worst of the season anywhere so far.
NSW Rural Fire Service district co-ordinator Peter Jones said crews estimated that 31 houses and 68 outbuildings had been lost to fire in areas south of Batlow, including the northern part of Tumbarumba.
"Those numbers are pretty rubbery and that will continue to rise," he said about 3.30pm on Friday.
Mr Jones said firefighters were backburning on Old Tumbarumba Road.
Batlow homeowner Stephen Williamson was cleaning out green waste from his garden about 2pm on Friday, as he worked to remove potential fuel. The Dunns Road bushfire was burning just outside the town.
His reason for deciding to stay when most other residents had left was simple.
"This is where I live," Mr Williamson said.
"After what we've seen on the TV from the [South] Coast, there's a lot of heartbreak out there and a lot of people have lost their homes.
"I want to protect where I live but it seems like our turn's coming."
Mr Williamson said the nearby fire was now close enough that at night you could see an orange glow over the hill from his backyard.
He said he intended to stay and keep defending the property, "but if things get too heavy, I might have to go somewhere else".
A few houses away, fellow homeowner Graham Salmon was on his roof filling the gutters with water and blocking downpipes.
He said his family had evacuated to various places including Tumut and Melbourne, but he was going to stay to save his home if he could.
"If it gets too bad, I'll probably have to leave [the house]," Mr Salmon said.
"There seems to be a bit of a safe haven down at the showground. There are quite a few cars there, so I'd probably head down there."