Parts of southern California have become infernos, after a hot dry summer turned forests into a tinder-box.
Firefighters are tackling blazes which have now engulfed 300,000 acres (120,000 hectares).
One technique is to light backfires to burn off flammable vegetation and create a break before the wildfire arrives.
But in the wake of the fires, devastation awaits those returning to their homes.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger visited some of the most affected areas, including this burnt church in Malibu.
The fires have been fanned by fierce desert winds and have forced evacuations from Malibu to San Diego.
At least 100 homes were destroyed by fire near Fallbrook, whipped up by 100mph (160 km/h) winds.
About 1,000 firefighters were called to the blaze at Malibu, home to many wealthy celebrities.
Air crews have been called in to dump water and fire retardant in forests across the state.
It has been a bad year for wildfires, with blazes cutting across large swathes of the western US, from northern Washington state all the way south to New Mexico.