Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club. Because No News is Bad News.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Cuyahoga River Caught Fire 50 Years Ago Today

Posted By on Sat, Jun 22, 2019 at 8:09 AM

  • Scene Archives Photo

But, as Wired points out, it caught fire lots of other times between 1936 and 1939. The June 22, 1969 conflagration, however, was given nationwide coverage by Time, meaning people all across the nation got their first glimpse of a major river in a major city burning and thought, "Holy hell, that's not good."

Once again, as Wired points out, the June 22, 1969 fire wasn't even treated as big news here in Cleveland ("What? The river's on fire again. Dammit. Oh well, go put it out. And pick up some Polish boys on the way back.") with the fire chief calling it “a run of the mill fire.”

But here we are, 50 years later, and it's still one of the first things that comes to mind when people hear the word "Cleveland." Well, that and Michael Stanley.

In celebration of the anniversary, the city is putting on a series of events. Find out more at

Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.

Tags: ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Cleveland Scene works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Cleveland and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Cleveland's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

July 1, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2020 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 241-7550
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation