We met up with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Lake Arrowhead middle school parking lot. We've been allowed to shadow the governor for the next few hours as he manages the state's response to the wildfires.
First stop is a back office in the middle school, where the governor gets on the phone to Washington, talking to President Bush and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The governor says he urgued the president to come see the devastation for himself.
We ride in a motorcade to a nearby hospital where a Blackhawk helicopter is waiting to take the governor on a tour of the devastation from the air.
Looking down from the helicopter it's amazing to see the size of the fire burning in the Lake Arrowhead region where more than 400 homes have been destroyed.
As we fly away from Lake Arrowhead and make our way to San Diego, Schwarzenegger, seated in the back on the pilot side, points out the window at three other fires burning in the distance. The governor who's working on three hours of sleep eats a few chips as he gazes at the smoke-filled skies and fires below.
"I have to be out here to manage this to make sure everything is being done," the governor says.
When we land in San Diego, the governor is told that the secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff is landing in 10 minutes, so the decision is made to wait to take him on a tour of the San Diego area and Qualcomm Stadium. When Chertoff arrives, he does a quick interview with us, saying the hard lessons learned during Katrina are helping manage the federal response.
After a short fly around, Schwarzenegger and Chertoff land at Qualcomm Stadium where they talk to volunteers and evacuees. The governor tells us he wants to make sure problems that come up are dealt with immediately. "We need to make sure everyone has what they need, things like enough baby formula and diapers."
A disaster of this magnitude can define a political career. Schwarzenegger seems determined to make sure he does everything possible to avoid any mistakes.
-- By Ted Rowlands, CNN Correspondent