50 years later: Separating fact from fiction on Cleveland’s burning Cuyahoga River

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — It inspired multiple songs and countless jokes.

When a trestle bridge caught fire on June 22, 1969, Cleveland’s reputation also went up in flames.

Now for the 50th anniversary of the fateful day, several experts and witnesses are speaking out, separating fact from fiction surrounding Cleveland’s burning Cuyahoga River.

“Cleveland is often much maligned for being a city that the river caught fire, and I’m on a one-man mission to dispel the rumor that our river caught fire,” said Doug Kusak, Cleveland Metroparks historical interpreter.

Contrary to what many people believe, the fire that day was small and one of multiple industrial fires that had been occurring since the 1800s in Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit and Buffalo.

Timing and a Time Magazine article forever changed the way people would see Cleveland and the river.

**Watch Suzanne’s report, above, for more**

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