THE former RFA Largs Bay has been called into action to help save hundreds of people from the bush fires engulfing Australia.

The vessel, which is named after the town and visited in 2008 and 2010, was sold by the British Navy to its Australian counterparts in 2011.

It has come to the rescue of nearly 1,000 people in the Victorian coastal town of Mallacoota during the past week.

Over 4,000 people fled to the shore as winds drove the flames towards their homes under a sky turned red by fire.

Australia deployed military ships and aircraft to help communities suffering from the devastation - including the renamed RFA Largs Bay.

It is now called HMAS Choules and was among navy ships bringing water, food and fuel to towns cut off by road.

Choules commander Scott Houlihan said 963 people had signed up for evacuation by sea and more had been airlifted to safety, as well as dozens of their pets.

As they boarded, one of the ship’s commanders greeted the passengers telling them to think of the vast navy vessel as “a cruise ship without the pina coladas”.

The Choules, which had most recently been in Fiji, then embarked upon a 20-hour journey down the East Gippsland coast to Westernport.

Families found areas to sleep for the night on the ship on yoga mats which had been handed out by the ship's crew.

They also had access again to showers, toilets, food and television.

The RFA Largs Bay was anchored off the local coastline during the Viking Festivals of 2008 and 2010, inviting visitors and local dignitaries on board.

The ship was assigned to patrol the Falkland Islands in 2008 and delivered relief supplies following the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

The 16,000 tonne long vessel accommodates up to 500 troops, their equipment, vehicles and can land Chinook and Sea King helicopters.

The ship also made headlines in 2007 after playing a role in a successful Navy operations to foil drug smuggling cartels.