VOLUNTEER firefighters who travelled to Dunalley from the North and North-West on Friday knew they had a difficult job ahead of them.
They didn't know it would be the worst fire day any of them had ever seen.
"We were never going to be able to stop the fire," Rocherlea Fire Brigade volunteer Laura Smith said.
"We had no time. We got to Dunalley and 10 minutes later the front was on us."
Ms Smith was one of 25 firefighters from the North and North-West who went south to defend Dunalley, working to protect key assets in the town.
They saved the pub but lost the school.
Most residents opted to leave the area early.
Recuperating over a barbecue lunch at the Tasmania Fire Service headquarters at Youngtown yesterday, Ms Smith said the destruction from the 20,000-hectare bushfire was "phenomenal".
"It was the ferocity of the fire and the swiftness with which it came over - I don't think people were really prepared for it to be that bad," she said.
"I wouldn't be surprised if there were deaths."
Carrick Fire Brigade first officer Greg Cain said the temperature in front of the fire climbed to 56.4degrees.
"She was bloody scary down there," Mr Cain said.
"Once the fire front had gone through, we had reports of people still trapped in their houses.
"They sent us off to try and see how they were, but we couldn't get through to them because of power lines and trees all over the road.
"Hopefully they survived."