Up to 100,000 Victorians have been urged to leave their homes ahead of worsening bushfire danger as the number of people missing in fire-affected areas rises to 28.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has declared a state of disaster for the first time across much of the eastern half of the state.
The Premier said the declaration provided "for formal evacuations of townships and areas" and sent a clear message that "if you can leave, you must leave", and would stay in place for a week.
The declaration gives the Government powers to take possession of private property to respond to the fires, control movement in and out of the disaster area and direct any of its agencies to perform or stop performing "any function, power, duty or responsibility".
Mr Andrews announced the declaration at a late-night media conference in Melbourne, after receiving an updated weather outlook on Thursday evening warning conditions would be even worse than earlier feared.
It covers a huge part of the state's eastern half, including parts of the East Gippsland shire, Mansfield shire, Wellington shire, Wangaratta rural shire, Towong shire, Alpine shire and the Mount Buller, Mount Hotham, Mount Stirling and Falls Creek Alpine resorts.
State Control Centre spokesperson James Todd there were "potentially 100,000 people across East Gippsland and the north-east that we'd like to get out of the area, out of the potential impact zone".
Mr Andrews also revealed a second person had died in the crisis, but said it was too early to reveal details about their identity or the circumstances of their death.
He said on Friday morning the number of people unaccounted for in the East Gippsland region had grown from 17 to 28.
He said a number of those among the original 17 reported missing had been located yesterday.
Fifty fires burn across Victoria
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said 780,000 hectares had burnt or were burning, including 100,000 hectares near Corryong in the state's north-east.
Victorian fire crews are currently tackling 50 ongoing fires, mostly in East Gippsland and the state's north-east.
Mr Andrews said he wanted to send a very clear message by using the disaster declaration, which was a recommendation of the royal commission into the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.
"Essentially this declaration is the first time these powers have been used because we face unprecedented risk to life and property in coming days," Mr Andrews said.
"The fires are unprecedented in their size, their scale and the risk they pose to so many people right across affected communities.
"If you can leave, you must leave — if you don't we simply cannot guarantee your safety.
"Others may be put into harm's way in trying to protect you and you may well find yourself isolated and cut-off for an extended period of time following fire activity that will almost certainly occur tomorrow [Friday], Saturday and potentially into Sunday."
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the coming days would bring unusually low humidity of under 10 per cent.
"What that means is that fires will travel at night," Mr Crisp said.
"People talk about fires five years ago, and that was not the case — generally fires overnight would settle down and you could, I guess, rest and regroup, but that's not what we're seeing.
"We've had examples of that over the last few weeks — the Marthavale fire ran 24 kilometres in one night, the Corryong fire nearly 30 kilometres."
Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said the powers allowed for arrests if people refused to evacuate or follow other police orders, but authorities were not intending to penalise people.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was confronted by angry protesters in the bushfire-hit town of Cobargo, in south-east NSW.