Paul Caron considered the worst-case scenario as fire bore down on three sides of Pepperdine University on Nov. 9.

The law school dean and his wife had hunkered down with their dog in the basketball gymnasium with hundreds of other faculty, staff and students under an established “shelter in place” plan, hoping that the 200-foot fire buffer encircling the hillside Malibu campus would work as intended and keep the devastating Woolsey fire at bay. They opted not to evacuate, fearing an escape by car would leave them more vulnerable to the flames.

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