The governor, soon to relinquish his office to Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger, was reluctant to respond to criticism that he did not activate firefighting resources, especially air tankers, quickly enough in San Diego county and elsewhere.
"Let me be clear," Davis said. "I have marshaled all the resources of the state.... We're doing everything we can to put the fires out and put people's lives back in order."
In San Diego County, the defense of Julian came after a disastrous night in which hundreds of homes were destroyed in the hamlets of Cuyamaca and Pine Hills. Shifting winds kept firefighters racing from one location to another.
No new structures were reported burned within San Diego city limits, however, and officials said the western portion of the Cedar fire, nearest the city, was largely contained.
The fire jumped a 50-foot-wide break on the south side of Julian on Wednesday morning, surprising residents who had been told they could return to their homes in a tree-lined canyon above the tiny town of Santa Ysabel, just north of Julian.
Residents standing at a nearby checkpoint watched in horror as the flames climbed a ridge toward their homes in Wynola Estates.
"We thought we had good news this morning," said Jack Riordan, a painting contractor who moved to Wynola Estates a few months ago. "We were led to believe we could go up and see our house, but it doesn't look good now."
Riordan, 25, and his wife, Marcy, 26, fled their home on Monday in their car with their important paperwork and wedding photos. They went to stay at her parents' home in Ramona. Marcy's parents had stayed at their home just days earlier when the fire burned parts of Ramona.
"It's been hell," said Marcy Riordan, speaking through tears as fire engines raced by.
Their neighbors peered anxiously through the smoke-filled air toward the ridge.
"Your heart is racing because when all you see is the smoke you have this false sense of security that 'It's not going to get me,' " said Barbara Segni, 61. "And then you see the flames, and it's heart-wrenching. Everything you've worked for is up there and these flames are racing to take it all away. Right now we don't know if we have a home."
The tally of houses destroyed by the Cedar and Paradise fires in San Diego County exceeded 1,700, with damage assessment teams still unable to visit some scorched, smoldering areas to get a final count.
Even as other homes were being burned, owners of homes destroyed in the fires' first three days clamored to begin rebuilding. City and county officials promised to waive fees and expedite permits.
"There are people out there ready to clear their land and begin to rebuild," said county Supervisor Dianne Jacob. "We're going to help every way we can."
Within the San Diego city limits, relief was mixed with incredulity.
"People are asking 'Why us?' " said Michael McDade, a lawyer. "But this is a tremendously resilient city. When you hear the volunteer center say they've got more volunteers than they need, you know you live in a special place."
Thousands of property owners remained without electricity because of damaged or destroyed transmission lines. Hospitals treated many patients with breathing problems because of smoke.
The Navy resumed normal operations, but schools remained closed. San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy began planning with religious leaders for an inter-faith service Sunday to help the community cope with the trauma.