Motivation: Disaster response efforts rely heavily on ad hoc, cross organization teams with multiple stakeholders, who must collaboratively make sense of the situation, and are often working at a distance. These properties make it difficult to design collaborative tools in support of decision making in these environments. Research Approach: In this paper we use virtual ethnographic techniques as a way to bridge the gap between important contextual and socio-technical conditions and early tool assessment. For an example case of some socio-technical issues, we discuss Twitter use during the San Diego, California wildfires in October 2007. Findings: We found that Twitter supported some aspects of distributed collaboration well, but not others. Originality: This research provided an early examination of the collaboration this form of connectivity supports which can be applied in several domains.