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July 06, 2012  | by: Qisthi Jenkins

CO wildfire relief aided by social media

Just a week after the dangerous Waldo Canyon Forest fire started in Colorado Springs, CO, about 90% of the fire has finally been contained. However, as of July 4th, the fire is currently still burning, making Waldo Canyon one of the most destructive wildfires in Colorado history. While there have been many relief efforts launched in order to aid the victims of the fire, one of the biggest reliefs has been through social media. 

Social media saves the day once more as it is the quickest way to circulate information and provide the world with it’s most recent updates by the second. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are this day and age’s go-to resources for spreading news fast, and this week’s Colorado wildfires are proof of just how fast news can really travel.

Aerial view of destroyed homes in the Waldo Canyon fire

The Waldo Canyon fire that has been burning for over a week now, has seared 17,659 acres of land, burned down 346 homes, caused 36,000 residents to evacuate, as well as two deaths so far. Many major relief organizations have been using social media to help bring aid to those who have been caught in the wake of all the destruction.

According to the Denver Post, just one day after the Colorado wildfires erupted, the #WaldoCanyonFire hashtag on Twitter had over 20,000 tweets providing evacuees, officials, and loved ones real-time information on the status of the fires. Elaine Filadelfo of Twitter communications states “Twitter is a lifeline during global — and local — emergencies. Twitter provides a way to connect with loved ones and friends, share critical information, and organize safety and relief efforts.”

The American Red Cross is one of the relief organizations that utilizes social media to the fullest. They launched a Digital Operations Center a.k.a a social media response system, that monitors  real-time data from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and various blogs to help their relief efforts.  After the wildfires, Gloria Huang, social engagement team member at the Red Cross states “We’ve seen a lot of people being afraid and scared this week. We’re able to reach out to them and give them digital hugs and provide mental safety.”

Waldo Canyon Fire

Nick Matesi, general manager of KKTV in Colorado Springs also shares that the Waldo Canyon Fire Facebook page had added 7,000 fans just two days after the start of the fire, all wanting to help out. Spokesman for the Sherriff’s offices states:

The world has changed. Traditionally, you had a press conference in the morning and the afternoon, but people won’t settle for that now. Our protocol is to make an emergency blog live and then a tweet goes out to link back to the blog. The speed and accuracy cannot be matched with a written press release and a press conference in three hours — those days are gone.

Nowadays, social media helps people connect in ways that would have been unimaginable before. By using the Twitter hashtag #WaldoCanyonFire or through the Waldo Canyon Fire Facebook page, people have been able to provide live updates and pictures of the status of the fire, messages about where relief camps are set up, or even places where victims can get free massages and firefighters can find cold Gatorade.

With social media on our side, the limits for relief are really endless.

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