The glow from the flames could be seen along hillsides and in places homes once stood.
"The wind was blowing so strong, the heat so intense, it was impossible to save every structure," Cal Fire firefighters Fernando Herrera said.
A fast moving wildfire burning east of Temecula destroyed at least 12 structures and forced the evacuation of about 30 homes, firefighters said.
The blaze broke out Saturday afternoon in the Cleveland National Forest and by late Saturday night it had burned more than 340 acres. The winds were blowing up to 20 miles per hour and the temperatures were in the 90s.
Mandatory evacuations were put into place along Highway 79, but some residents stayed behind, refusing to leave.
Other anxious residents gathered behind roadblocks set up along the highway and said watching the fire rip through their neighborhood was terrifying.
“It’s wild. You don’t know what its like until you are here on the spot, it hits you its crazy," Brent Yanik said.
The fire was 50-percent surrounded by Sunday morning. One resident suffered minor smoke inhalation and was treated at the scene.
Dry, hot and windy Santa Ana conditions are forecast to move into the area early next week, according to the National Weather Service.