A state of emergency has been declared in San Diego County as strong winds and temperatures of up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) fuelled nine wildfires.
"It's like a scene from Armageddon," one homeowner told the LA Times.
Firefighters tackle the Poinsettia fire in Carlsbad, California Reuters
Thousands fled their homes as flames consumed brush and trees left brittle by drought. Some homeowners had only minutes to gather their belongings and pets.
The brush fire tore through Carlsbad, destroying several properties and causing power failures. The San Onofre nuclear plant was evacuated as a precauction, and tourists had to be evacuated from Legoland amusement park.
Greg Saska watches as his mother's home goes up in flames in Carlsbad Reuters A house is consumed by flames in San Marcos, California Getty A DC-10 Super Tanker aircraft dumps flame retardant on a blaze in San Marcos, California Reuters A helicopter drops water on a wildfire in Fallbrook, California Reuters A rainbow is seen as a firefighting helicopter carries water to tackle a blaze on a hillside near San Marcos, California Reuters A police car is dwarfed by flames and rising smoke from a canyon in Carlsbad, California Reuters The rising moon is turned orange by smoke from wildfires as an emergency vehicle travels along a burned-out hillside near San Marcos, California Reuters Residents look at the smouldering remains of their home in Carlsbad Getty The ruins of a home smoulder in the night after it was destroyed in the Poinsettia fire Getty Firefighters spray water onto burning commercial structure in Carlsbad, California Getty Firefighters tackle a blaze in a commercial area of Carlsbad Getty Residents watch firefighters battle the Poinsettia fire in Carlsbad, California Reuters After climbing a hill to view the Poinsettia fire, residents are evacuated by police as yet another wildfire moves up the hillside Reuters Students from California State University, San Marcos, put out small fires with extinguishers Reuters Children and teachers from Aviara Oaks Elementary and Aviara Oaks Middle School in Carlsbad are evacuated Reuters Fire rages above an apartment complex in San Marcos Getty A prison crew battles a fire in an avocado grove outside Fallbrook, California Reuters Firefighters spray water on a burning commercial structure in Carlsbad Getty A home on a hillside goes up in flames near San Marcos, California Reuters A plane drops fire retardant as firefighters battle a blaze in San Marcos Reuters A man talks on a phone as a wildfire is seen approaching his neighbourhood in Carlsbad, California Reuters A firefighter puts out spot fires in a garden in Carlsbad Reuters