As thousands of firefighters try to contain the massive wildfires near Los Angeles, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger commended their bravery at Tuesday press conference.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and their friends. Every Californian is grateful for their bravery and for their great service,'' Schwarzenegger said. "Of course, they are my great heroes."
With eight major fires burning across California the governor has declared states of emergency in at least five counties - San Bernardino County is latest to be added to that list. Fire officials admit it could take weeks to get the fires under control.
"Fires are burning from the north, the northern border of California, all the way south, and from the Pacific Ocean all the way to the Sierra Nevada," Schwarzenegger said. "There are fires everywhere."
The fire has already destroyed 53 homes and has threatened 12,000 others. Some residents have began to return to what's left of their homes to find only charred rubble and ashe.
The blaze, the size of San Francisco, is burning near Los Angeles. Nearly 2,500 firefighters are attacking it from the ground and from the air. Two firefighters have lost their lives in the rush to stop the giant blaze.
More evacuations were ordered overnight.
"When you hear from law enforcement about evacuation, follow their orders," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said.
However, three people were seriously burned after ignoring the governor's orders.
In La Crescenta, a fire consumed two dozen homes and threatened a hub of communication towers that link to local television, radio, and police.
So far, the most destructive fire has been in Auburn, near Sacramento. Sixty homes and buildings have been destroyed.
"I had to run, I was shaking, to get my daughter. I grabbed her from her sleep," said Rachel Higgs, evacuated resident.
Amid all the destruction and loss, there is at least one heroic story. A sherriff's deputy saved an elderly woman from the fast-moving flames.
"I kicked the door in and navigated my way through the smoke, and found her," said Ken Skogen, Placer County Deputy Sheriff. "I picked her up and carried her out."
The southern California blaze is only about five-percent contained. It is more than doubled in size since Sunday.