Cuyahoga River Fire

Water is supposed to put out fire, not ignite into it. Whether you are proud or ashamed of the infamous river fire incidents, the environmental effects have been overwhelmingly positive. The Cuyahoga River was once the most polluted river in the United States. During a period in the mid 1900′s, a stretch of the river from Akron to Cleveland was completely devoid of fish. From 1868 through 1969, there were 13 reported incidents of the river catching on fire. The river was so polluted with oil and other debris that a spark from a nearby boat or train could cause the river to burst into flames. The most potent river fire occurred in 1952 and caused over $1.3 million in damages to boats, a bridge, and a nearby building. The most influential was in 1969 when the Cuyahoga River Fire was illustrated on the front page of “Time Magazine“. The article brought national attention and outrage to the polluted waters in the Cleveland area. Inspired by the event, Congress was determined to clean up land and water pollution nation wide. Legislation was passed on January 1, 1970 that established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA put forth the Clean Water Act which required that all rivers in the United States be clean enough for mass amounts of fish and humans. The Cuyahoga River is now up to hygienic standards and is home to sixty different species of fish. The United States has not had a river fire since 1969. Due to the uniqueness and irony of the incidents, the river fire was referenced in Randy Newman’s song “Burn On” and R.E.M’s 1986 “Cuyahoga”.