River on Fire

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The Forgotten Fire That Leveled New York

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Cuyahoga River through the years, from fires to revival

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Smoke on the Water: 50 Years After the Cuyahoga Fire

This flaming image amplified the crisis in a way the actual fire may not have if reporters had been there to get photos. Also, Cleveland was already the focus of national news, as the newly elected Carl B. Stokes was the first elected African American U.

In This Moment - "River Of Fire" [Official Audio]

This was an historical moment, which brought with it a lot of national media scrutiny. But most importantly, the cultural timing was just right; the national conversation was changing. The fire on the Cuyahoga River is sometimes portrayed in the press as the thing igniting an environmental revolution. It is almost a messianic figure for some—a river that died so that others may live.

This is hagiography though—a sensationalization. And to be fair, local representatives that I met during the anniversary celebration focused on a tempered and historically driven story. The fire occurred at a moment when the environmental movement was already picking up steam nationally and in Ohio. Attempts were already underway to clean things up in Ohio , especially for Lake Erie, a major source of drinking water. This bond was a major, unparalleled move.

How a Burning River Helped Create the Clean Water Act

But probably no less important for raising environmental awareness was the role of deindustrialization, as University of Cincinnati Professor of History David Stradling and his brother, journalist Richard Stradling have pointed out. Deindustrialization in the city meant the area was leaking residents and jobs. During those years, it has worked extraordinarily hard to resurrect its river and reputation. In the early 70s, for example, Dr.

In , two graduate students petitioned Dr. He agreed to remove it in future editions. Though it is worth noting that Cleveland police statistics show an ongoing decrease in violent crimes. Cleanup and blight removal is ongoing. However, according to a report earlier in the year , while gentrification is usually a top issue in many places where revitalization is occurring, in the Cleveland area population loss, neighborhood abandonment, and poverty concentration are the rising concerns.

Still, the reawakening of the Cuyahoga River is no small feat. Once lifeless, unsafe, and avoided by residents, it is now a central part of city life and tourism, where food culture is booming and restaurants offer river views. Kayakers and paddle boaters can enjoy the river and cyclists make use of trails that follow the river south toward Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It only received the national park designation in the year They replanted vegetation, restored river banks, and controlled erosion.