Southern California

Pepperdine Students Take Shelter as Woolsey Fire Burns Toward Seaside Campus

The Woolsey Fire burned toward the campus Friday after hopping the 101 Freeway

What to Know

  • The Woolsey Fire started in Ventura County and burned in Los Angeles County toward Malibu
  • Some Pepperdine University students stayed in the campus library as the fire approached the ocean
  • Calm wind conditions are in Saturday's forecast before another round of red flag warnings Sunday into Tuesday

Some Pepperdine University students spent a tense night on the Malibu campus as the 35,000-acre Woolsey fire cast an eerie glow over the area and flames burned toward the seaside school.

The fire, which started Wednesday in Ventura County, burned hillsides around the campus. Los Angeles County fire strike teams and water dropping aircraft were working to contain the flames on or around the school, according to a statement from the school. No permanent structures have been lost, shelter-in-place protocols were in effect Friday and all individuals on campus remain safe at relocaiton sites, including Payson Library and Tyler Campus Center, the school said.

Pepperdine lifted the shelter-in-place order that had been in effect and canceled all school events for Saturday, and school officials were expected to update the status of Monday's classes and events later in the afternoon. Students returned to dorm rooms Saturday morning, when a layer of smoke blanketed the campus.

Late Friday night, University President Andrew Benton said students were safe on campus, but expressed frustration. He later tweeted a message that said early communication issues were resolved "leading to an effective response by law and fire professionals. We are grateful."

"I can't speak to the facts, but I can say there was a determination made for the students to stay in place because at that moment it wasn't safe to evacuate," said LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby. "We protected the students were they were."

The Woolsey Fire has destroyed at least 150 homes and forced the evacuation of 75,000 homes and 200,000 people in both counties as it indiscriminately consumed multi-million dollar mansions and mobile homes. The flames turned what they touched to ash as the fire forced a Malibu evacuation and sent residents scrambling to find a way out of the burn area.

The fire started in Ventura County but raced into Los Angeles County, chewed its way through brush and into neighborhoods of Westlake Village and Malibu. The fire jumped Pacific Coast Highway about 10 p.m. Friday, moving toward Malibu Colony.

No injuries were officially reported, but sheriff's detectives investigated Saturday the discovery of two bodies in the 33000 block of Mulholland Highway, but could not confirm if the deaths were fire-related.

Driven by 50- to 60-mph winds, the flames jumped south across the 101 Freeway in the Liberty Canyon area early Friday, sending it on a course through Malibu and its exclusive celebrity enclaves. It was unclear how many homes were lost as the fire relentlessly advanced, but on-scene crews reported dozens of structures burning in various canyons. There also were reports of flames ripping through an apartment building and a mobile home park, along with people calling authorities to say they were trapped in burning structures.

Firefighters are looking ahead to a narrow window of calm wind Saturday as they battle to gain ground on the Woolsey Fire, which burned 35,000 acres and forced closures on the 101 Freeway and Pacific Coast Highway.

The fire also caused the university to postpone a men’s basketball game against Cal State Northridge, which had been scheduled for Saturday night.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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