We’re preparing for our next community event on April 28: “Living History: The Burning River.”  We’re sitting down with an amazing panel (below) to discuss the Fire on the Cuyahoga, to talk about what the cleanup has done, and to get a sense of how healthy our most important bodies of water will be in the future.  

Related to this, our great new producer, Gabriel Kramer, decided to find different groups in Northeast Ohio that have adopted the name “Burning River.”  He found a bunch, including:



This might seem strange, since the spontaneous combustion of a body of (ideally non-flammable) water isn’t normally something that most people would celebrate.  In fact, it was one of the low points in our region’s history.  Who wants to have a river so polluted that it catches fire, symbolizing industrial decay and making Northeast Ohio a laughingstock for the country?  

But did you know that the water quality of the Cuyahoga was actually improving when it caught fire?  That rivers across the country were spontaneously combusting in the same way without the attention given to the Cuyahoga?  That the image of the fire printed in Time Magazine was actually from a different fire that happened over ten years before the infamous Burning River?  

And what happened after the fire to help clean it up?  How healthy is it now?  What are we doing to ensure its safety and cleanliness?  What challenges lay ahead for the Cuyahoga and Lake Erie, and how can we make sure that it continues to improve over the next fifty years?  

These are just some of the questions we’ll be exploring at the next Living History on April 28 at Merwin’s Wharf in the flats.  We’ll start off at 6:00 p.m., and our panel includes:

  • Julie Wolin, Professor of Biology, Geology and Environmental Science at Cleveland State University;

  • Ben Stefanski, Director of Public Utilities for the City of Cleveland when the river caught fire;

  • Michael Rotman, Cleveland historian, writer and history teacher.  

If you care about Northeast Ohio, and you want to be informed about the events that have shaped our community, you won’t want to miss this fascinating series.  More information can be found here.  


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Copyright © 2015 Andrew Samtoy; available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

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