The devastating Fort McMurray wildfire entered its seventh day, yesterday. Twitter has played a prominent role in the dissemination of information and, more importantly, has served as a key platform for coordinating humanitarian efforts.

There are countless stories of how social media have factored in to emergency communications and the rise of digital humanitarianism. Case studies and books have been written about the California Wildfires, Haiti Earthquake, Hurricane Sandy and the Slave Lake fire. All of these inform subsequent use of social media in emergencies and crises. Social media have become the new amateur radio during disasters and for coordinating disaster relief.

The following graphs and charts summarize various aspects of Twitter activity associated with the Fort McMurray wildfire spanning May 1 through May 7, inclusive. Analysis conducted using Sysomos MAP.

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Twitter dominates online activity

There is no shortage of online mentions of the Fort McMurray wildfire on various platforms including blogs, online forums (including Reddit) and news sites. It’s not impossible to get actual numbers on Facebook mentions except from Facebook itself (due to new API restrictions). Twitter dominates measurable online mentions with 1,078,312 mentions during the evaluation period. That’s 93% of all considered activity.

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Online mentions of the Fort McMurray wildfires between May 1-7, 2016 inclusive. Analysis using Sysomos MAP.

Busiest day: May 4

Twitter activity peaked on May 4. In all, 265,186 Twitter participants issued 341,859 tweets that day, accounting for 31.7% of the tweets issued between May 1-7.

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Trending chart of tweets about Fort McMurray wildfires between May 1-7, 2016 inclusive. Analysis using Sysomos MAP.

Mostly retweets

It’s expected that most emergency/humanitarian Twitter activity during the event is retweets. While this is common of Twitter in general, it is even more true during major events including natural disasters and other emergencies as people flock to Twitter to share articles and urgent announcements posted by emergency services, NGOs and governments/politicians.

In all, 83% of the analyzed Twitter activity is retweets (amplification), 16% is regular tweets (communication) and 1% replies (conversation).

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Breakdown of Fort McMurray wildfire tweet types between May 1-7, 2016 inclusive. Analysis using Sysomos MAP.

International attention

Canada accounts for 75% of all online mentions of the fire. Albertans have generated 52.6% of the Canadian traffic. Ontario follows with 22.7%, then BC with 9.9%.

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Global heatmap of Twitter activity associated with the Fort McMurray wildfire. Analysis using Sysomos MAP.

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Canadian provincial breakdown of Fort McMurray wildfire mentions on Twitter, May 1-7, 2016. Analysis using Sysomos MAP.

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International breakdown of Fort McMurray wildfire mentions on Twitter, May 1-7, 2016. Analysis using Sysomos MAP.

Gender balance

There is a 50/50 split of male and female participation in Fort McMurray wildfire activity.

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Gender breakdown of Fort McMurray wildfire mentions on Twitter, May 1-7, 2016. Analysis using Sysomos MAP.

Top hashtag: #ymmfire

Nearly 274.5K unique Twitter handles issued over 530K tweets containing #ymmfire, making it the most-commonly used hashtag in tweets about the Fort McMurray wildfire.

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Breakdown of hashtags used in Fort McMurray wildfire tweets, May 1-7, 2016. Analysis using Sysomos MAP.

Text analysis

Cities and areas either involved in the fires or relief efforts are the most-prominently mentioned entities. These include Fort McMurray, Fort Saskatchewan, Edmonton, Calgary and Alberta. Slave Lake councillor Mark Missal earned mentions for a photo he shared, and @shell_canada terminal was mentioned frequently because Shell provided baby car seats for affected families.

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Prominently mentioned entities in Fort McMurray wildfire tweets, May 1-7, 2016. Analysis using Sysomos MAP.

Buzzgraphs illustrate the connection between key terms in the most active conversations. The stronger the connection between the words, the thicker and bolder the connection line. There are three levels of connection illustrated using a thick solid line (strong), a thin solid line (medium) and a thin broken line (light).

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Buzzgraph analysis of key connected terms in Fort McMurray wildfire tweets, May 1-7, 2016. Analysis using Sysomos MAP.

Top tweets

India-based celebrity Twitter user @Gurmeetramrahim issued the most-popular tweet. This is particularly remarkable given it shot to prominence with 8,568 retweets and 8,408 likes after being issued on the final day of the analysis period. It leapfrogged a @redcrosscanada May 3 tweet which accumulated 6,624 retweets and 3,834 likes. A May tweet from @ccccrystal__ showing the harrowing conditions during the evacuation is the third most-popular with 5,490 retweets and 3,544 likes.
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