Disaster Girl is a photoshop meme in which an exploitable photo of a smiling girl is superimposed on to images of natural disasters and accidents to imply that she has caused some type of calamity depicted in the background.
The photograph of the girl and the burning house was taken by Dave Roth in January 2005 during the local fire department's live drill training two blocks away from his home in Mebane, North Carolina. While observing the fire, Dave caught his daughter, Zoe, smiling devilishly juxtaposed against the burning house.
Roth first uploaded the photo of his daughter, which he titled "Firestarter," to the image hosting service Zooomr on January 2nd 2007. However, it did not receive much attention until later that year on November 29th when Roth submitted the same image to JPG Magazine for an "Emotion Capture" competition. The photo was selected for publication in the February / March 2008 print issue of the magazine.
In October 2008, JPG Magazine spoke with Dave and Zoe, who were both "jazzed" by the attention the photo had received. By November 2008, the initial JPG Magazine post had gained over 95,000 views. The original photo was posted to Buzzfeed on October 27th, 2008 with a followup post the next day highlighting the best derivatives, followed by similar posts on Digg, TrendHunter, eBaum's World Forum and Best Week Ever. Over the years, the photo and its derivatives have been mentioned on Neatorama, photo site DamnCoolPictures, Cracked and the Huffington Post.
Disaster Girl Now
Interview with Know Your Meme
On December 18th, 2020, KYM interviewed Zoe as part of their editorial series that follows up on people featured in prominent memes. In the interview, we spoke with Roth to get a glimpse into what it was like growing up with her image plastered all around the internet — even to this day.
Search for Disaster Girl didn't begin until October 2008, when the photos were posted to Buzzfeed. Search peaked in May 2011.