Kris Leija, 22, ran into the building three times early Sunday and ran back out to deliver the children, including one in a baby seat, to firefighters across the street.
Leija was recognized during a subsequent television interview by sheriff's Lt. Carol Taylor as the subject of an outstanding warrant.
Leija was allowed to finish the interview before he was arrested for failing to meet with his probation officer last month. He had been serving four months of probation after pleading guilty to a 2002 burglary.
Taylor said she still considered Leija a hero, despite the arrest.
"I wouldn't want to take that away from him," she said. "He just should have been more responsible about his personal matters and this wouldn't be happening to him."
Leija's mother, Janie Ochoa, said through tears that her son took the chance of being identified when he sought out the children's grandmother, who had said on television she wanted to know who the hero was.
"He knew if he got on TV he was going to be arrested," Ochoa said.
About 70 families were left homeless from the fire, which destroyed three buildings in an apartment complex. No one died in the blaze, and fire officials said one woman suffered a broken arm.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation.