So, this is where it all started. This is the river that burned. I remember visiting Cleveland last year about this time of year and thinking these thoughts as we walked along the Cuyahoga riverfront.
We all know the story. On June 22, 1969, an oil slick and debris in the Cuyahoga river caught fire in Cleveland, Ohio. This event would become the “poster child” of environmental degradation and some would say the impetus of the American environmental movement. So how bad was this fire?
Here is story that ran on page 11 of the Cleveland’s Plain Dealer:
A burning oil slick floating on the Cuyahoga River caused $50,000 damage to two key railroad trestles at the foot of Campbell Road Hill S.E. about noon yesterday, closing one to traffic.
Ballalion 7 Fire chief Bernard E. Campbell said the fire was reported at 11:56 a.m. and was under control by 12:20 p.m. The burning slick floated under the wooden bridges and set them on fire. Cause of the blaze was undetermined, said Campbell. A fireboat battled the flames on the water while units from three battalions brought the fire on the trestles under control.
Campbell said a bridge belonging to Norfolk and Western Railway Co. sustained $45,000 damage, closing both of its tracks. The other, one-track trestle is open. The fire did $5,000 damage to the timbers of this Newburgh & South Shore Railroad Co. crossing.
Flames climbed as high as five stories, said Campbell. Campbell pointed out a fireboat patrols the Cuyahoga River daily checking for oil slicks and clearing them away. He said waterfront industries are responsible, dumping oil wastes into the river rather than reclaiming them.
- This Cuyahoga River fire lasted just thirty minutes.
- The fire only caused 50,000 dollars in damage mostly to a few railroad bridges.
- No one has been able to produce a photo of this Cuyahoga fire.