California fires drive 2-1-1 to near-record usage

California wildfires pushed 2-1-1 call volume back near peak levels set in the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic. We examined requests to United Way 2-1-1 of Santa Cruz County to assess the impact of the CZU Lightning Complex fire that burned over 86,000 acres in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties between August 16 and September 22, 2020. As the top chart shows, requests to 2-1-1 in Santa Cruz County rose sharply during the first four weeks of the fire, peaking at 125 requests per day, nearly reaching the highest volume day of 2020, 138 requests, recorded on March 18 in the early weeks of the pandemic. A closer look at 2-1-1 requests during the CZU fire (bottom chart) shows a dramatic increase in disaster-related calls seeking assistance with housing and shelter. The fire destroyed or damaged over 1,000 residences. Analyses examine 7,616 requests received by 2-1-1 in Santa Cruz County from January 1 to September 21, 2020. Mouse over each bar to see the number of requests received each day.

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