Over the past couple of years we have looked at different fires and their effect regarding changes to codes. From Hotel Fires, nightclub fires, train derailments, boat and ship fires, to wildland fires. We have never discussed a fire on a river, not a ship or a building on the river, but the river itself. So today is a first for us.

Over the past couple of years we have looked at different fires and their effect regarding changes to codes. From Hotel Fires, nightclub fires, train derailments, boat and ship fires, to wildland fires. We have never discussed a fire on a river, not a ship or a building on the river, but the river itself. So today is a first for us.

Oddly we can’t call this a single event as over a span of a century the same river had a total of 13 fires. From 1868 until the most famous fire in 1969 the Cuyahoga River had an issue with the river burning. We have talked in the past on how to put a fire out, and of the ways is cooling by application of water. Understanding this how does fire burn freely on water, let’s find out.

The Cuyahoga River flows through Cleveland and eventually empties into Lake Erie. Cleveland Ohio was an Industrial town from the mid to late 1800’s into the mid 1900’s. The factories and Mills along the river for years dumped industrial waste into the Cuyahoga River. The thick oil and other products that filled the top of the river were flammable and over the years caused fires.

While 1969 was the most well-known, it was far from the most damaging. The estimated cost of the 1969 fire was put in the area of $50,000 for damage to a railroad bridge. If you went back to the river fire of 1952, estimated damages were put at 1 million with bridges, ships, and buildings destroyed by the fire. The fire in June of 1969 has no known photos, and articles referencing the fire show images from the event seventeen years earlier.

It was however the fire in June of 1969 that turned out to be a catalyst for change, the fire so small in comparison that was extinguished apparently before press could arrive to take a picture. What and Why the sudden change and concern? The 1960’s saw a downturn in Industry and a new vision to the damages unregulated industry had on the environment. The 1960’s is when the word “environmentalism” started to become part of everyday language.

Most likely the most famous article written in regards to the 1969 was by Time Magazine who in the article penned the Cuyahoga River as the river that “oozes rather than flows” and a river in which a person “does not drown but decays”.

The result of this fire and the notoriety given it by Time Magazine was the driving force for many of the Laws and Agency’s we have all become familiar with, just to name a few; The Clean Water Act, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

To clarify rivers don’t burn, it is the products floating on top of the rivers that burn. There are other reported fires on rivers however this was week was the 50th Anniversary for the 1969 fire additionally no other fire on a river created so much legislation and agencies as this one. On a side note I will be absent from my regular writing for a short period of time. Thanks to all who take time to read these and take even more time to let me know they read them. I hope to begin regularly in Mid-August, until then be safe.