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The story behind the Dumpster Fire GIF that embodied the year 2016

Now we can put this tired meme to bed.


Jay Hathaway

Internet Culture

Posted on Oct 20, 2016   Updated on May 25, 2021, 6:14 pm CDT

Fueled by a highly polarized election season, “dumpster fire” as a description of a disaster has passed the point of cliché. It’s reached “EPIC FAIL” levels of overuse. It’s so bad that Gizmodo Media Group has banned it from their stories unless it refers to an actual flaming dumpster.

What started out as an evocative metaphor for the combination of distasteful and dangerous has been reduced to an animated GIF. This animated GIF: 


You’ve probably seen it on Twitter or Facebook, billed as an authentic depiction of life in the year 2016. At some point, though, it was just a large, smoking trash bin with flames shooting out. This week, tracked down the story of that trash bin

Entrepreneur EIC Jason Feifer contacted GIF-hosting website Giphy, where the animation appears, and they were able to trace it back to this 2012 YouTube video: 

It reveals that the infamous dumpster that caught fire behind the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, and the L.A. Fire Department’s engine 27 crew extinguished it. But that’s where the trail ends, because the LAFD isn’t talking.

They told Fiefer they didn’t want to waste department resources on a dumb GIF, which is a reasonable, even refreshing position in the year of our dumpster fire two thousand and sixteen.

Sometimes it’s best to let flaming dumpsters lie.

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*First Published: Oct 20, 2016, 7:39 pm CDT