The Myth Of The Disaster Girl

The disaster girl is a picture of a cute little girl with a mischievous smile standing in front of a house which is engulfed in flames. This little girl’s picture has become a very famous meme since it was uploaded in 2007, ten years later and it is still being remade and used and shared widely. The picture was originally taken in 2004 in Mebane North Carolina US. when Zoe Roth was just 4 years old, by her father Dave Roth.

Although this little girl’s devilish smile makes anyone suspicious of her, it is a myth that she started the fire. According to her family, Zoe and her brother were watching TV on Saturday morning in January 2004, when their mother told them that a house down the street was on fire, Zoe’s dad got his new digital camera and took the kids to see.

“Innocent” kids ..

As it turns out the fire was a controlled fire started by the fire department as a drill for the fire-men to practice their fire extinguishing skills. The whole neighbourhood had come to watch. They even let the kids use the hose for fun.

This video shows how a controlled house fire used for training is setup and carried out:

Professional fire starters

Three years later Dave uploaded this picture on a photo sharing site called Zooomr, he captioned it “firestarter” and the picture quickly became very popular, with many people commenting. Taken out of context this little girl looks like she is the one responsible for the fire and is now devilishly smiling at her accomplishment.

In November of 2007, Dave entered the “firestarter” picture in a contest called “emption capture” for the JPG magazine. Their picture won the contest and they received $100, free subscription to the magazine and had their picture published in the February/March 2008 magazine issue. Dave surprised Zoe with the magazine in 2008, 8 year old Zoe took the magazine to school and showed it to all her friends, she was famous!

8 year old Zoe holding an issue of JPG magazine

JPG magazine shared the photo on their website, and the picture became even more famous than before, people started to edit Zoe’s picture into historical catastrophes and sharing their creations on the internet. Buzzfeed, a “Social news and Entertainment company” made a timeline made out of all the pictures that Zoe was photoshopped into, this timeline included all the major catastrophes dating back to the sudden distinction of dinosaurs.

Dinosaster girl!

This was when a user on Zooomr messaged Dave to let him know about the pictures with Zoe’s face. This meme came to be known as “disaster girl”.

It wasn’t long before the meme evolved into the more common version which is the original picture with white text explaining why the fire was started.

I have compiled here my favourite disaster girl memes. Enjoy:

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