Displaced by wildfire, Pepperdine sophomore takes economics classes from Prior Lake home

- Thousands of students are forced to shelter in place, unable to get off Pepperdine University’s campus before the fire came too close, but one student from Minnesota caught a lucky break and is safe at home in Prior Lake.

The Woolsey fire in Southern California has destroyed more than 500 structures in Malibu alone and thousands more statewide.

It even creeped onto Pepperdine’s campus and forced at least one of its students to head home here to Minnesota until the deadly fire is fully contained.

“I walked out of my dorm and I saw this pluming smoke that looked like an explosion and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m leaving.’” Said Tia Peterson, a sophomore at Pepperdine.

Peterson didn’t expect be home early for Thanksgiving, because when the Woolsey fire in California swept towards the periphery of campus Saturday, she hit the road.

“She has no clothes, she came with the clothes on her back and just two things,” Tracey Peterson, Tia’s mother said.

“It got on to campus,” recalled Tia. “I didn’t think it would ever get on to campus.”

Unlike the thousands of students who sheltered in place, Tia made it to the airport and now studies economics on her mother’s Prior Lake sofa.

“It looks like a warzone out there,” Tracey said. “When I see the news I’m like, ‘Wow.’”

While both are relieved Pepperdine students are reportedly safe, concerns remain.

“They’re issuing smoke masks, so the kids going out of the dorms they’re being advised to wear masks,” Tracey said.

“It seems like God is mad for some reason,” Tia added.

So far the Woolsey fire has scorched more than 150 square miles and claimed at least three lives. This just days after the Thousand Oaks shooting massacre, a half hour from campus, left 12 dead, including a Pepperdine freshman.

“Just so much of these big events so close to each other,” Tia said.

Meanwhile, at the other end of California, the Camp Fire death toll continues to climb with at least 63 dead and 631 missing.

Now, with rain in the Southern California forecast, possible mudslides could mean sheer catastrophe.

So Tia and her mom lean on their faith and for now, cherish the extra time they now have together.

“Oh my gosh I'm glad you got out of there,” said Tracey to Tia.

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