Pepperdine weathers two big blows

Malibu is stunningly beautiful. It’s where Hollywood stars live. It’s home to some of the most expensive, sought-after real estate in the nation.

Pepperdine School of Law is also nestled there.

Normally, that’s a point of pride. On its website, there is a photo of a sign that says: “Malibu 21 Miles of Scenic Beauty.” There is also a picture of students looking out toward the Pacific.

It looks positively heavenly.

Just recently, though, it turned hellish. 

Malibu was struck by wild fires, which raged furiously, fueled by fast, dry Santa Ana winds. The fires marched toward the campus and came within feet of the law school and undergraduate buildings. Fires burned on three sides of the site.

Students, faculty and staff huddled in different buildings, as part of the school’s fire protection plan, which doesn’t rely on evacuation because of the number of students without cars and the limited ways to leave.

But the fire came closer. And closer. Dean Paul Caron, who took refuge in the school gym with his wife and dog, told news outlets he feared for his life.

“There was a lot of worry. My wife and I were talking about that we could die here tonight,” Canon told

Somehow, luckily, the school was spared. Both the work of fire fighters, as well as Pepperdine’s preventative measures, such as having a huge buffer zone, were credited.  

It was one of two tragic events to hit the region and impact Pepperdine. Earlier, a mass shooting took place in the nearby town of Thousand Oaks, at a country-and-western bar frequented by college students.

A Pepperdine undergraduate student, freshman Alaina Housley, was among the 12 people killed. A number of other Pepperdine students were present, including one from the law school. They survived.

The Christian school held a prayer service for the victims on Thursday, Nov. 8.

That night, the fire came.

It would eventually char nearly 100,000 acres, destroy 1,500 structures and take three lives. Another wild fire, the Camp Fire in Northern California, broke out just hours earlier. It became the state’s deadliest, killing at least 81.

Pepperdine has worked closely with the Los Angeles County Fire Department over the years to create a fire protection plan. It relies on a shelter-in-place policy, which it believes is the safest course of action. It is well-practiced and proven successful, the school says.

Even though Malibu was ordered evacuated, the school decided to stick to its plan. Under the policy, students can leave if they want, but the vast majority stayed. It’s hardly the first time it was put into action. Fires have encroached upon the school a number of times.

The law school is not abandoning its mission of helping others in these times. It has launched a Disaster Relief Clinic to offer pro bono legal services to those harmed by the wild fires.

Here's a map of how close the fire came to Pepperdine. It is the blue oval in the bottom corner. 





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