Rivers That Have Caught On Fire

The skyline of Cleveland, Ohio on the Cuyahoga River.
The skyline of Cleveland, Ohio on the Cuyahoga River.

River fires are not unusual incidences in the history of rivers around the world but continue to occur to date with the most recent incident recorded in 2015. A long history of fire fueled by thick oil spillage in the rivers, lakes and their arteries has characterized some of the world’s famous rivers. Oil and chemical spillage into the rivers place the rivers at high risk of catching fire.

Wenzhou, Zhejiang, China

A section of Meiyu River in Wenzhou in Eastern Chine burst into flame in the early morning of March 5, 2014. The river had been heavily polluted for several years with oil, chemicals, and untreated sewage from the factories upstream finding their ways into the river. The fire is thought to have been caused by a cigarette that was tossed into the river by a passerby. The fire that reached over 16 feet high consumed a nearby wooden rail and three cars that were parked on the side of the river. Firefighters managed to contain the fire before it could spread to the nearby buildings.

Rouge River, Detroit, United States

River Rouge is roughly 127 miles and flows into the Detroit River. The river was one of the most polluted in the US states before the famous fire of 1969. The river is surrounded by the massive petroleum company, refinery, waste treatment plants, and other important industries in Detroit. Most of these industries were the major cause of River Rouge pollution. Due to the pollution and spillage of oil and chemicals, the river caught fire in 1969 around the area of Detroit sending billows of thick smoke into the air. A nearby oil storage tank exploded in the process. The cause of the fire was not established immediately.

Buffalo River, Buffalo, United States

Buffalo River is a holding basin for industrial and municipal waste. Massive pollution has characterized the river. The steel and grain industries along the Buffalo River dumped toxic chemicals into the river. The river caught fire in 1968 due to contamination. A workman's touch ignited the fire. Although the fire was contained, there was also a future possibility of the river catching fire again. The river was closed for several days after the fire incident for cleanup.

Schuylkill River, Philadelphia, United States

Schuylkill River lies entirely in the state of Pennsylvania. The river has been on fire more than once through its history. In 1892 oil leaked into the river from the nearby works at Point Breeze Philadelphia and caught fire from a match that had been tossed into the river. The river was heavily silted with coal dust and silt from the upstream industries which frequently caused the fire on different sections of the river. However, the river has significantly improved following the Desilting Act of 1945.

Cuyahoga River, Cleveland, United States

Cuyahoga River was among the most polluted rivers in the US in the 20th century. At least 13 fires incidences have occurred on the river with the first fire occurring in 1868. However, the largest river fire of 1952 damaged several boats worth $1 million, a bridge, and a riverfront office. The Cuyahoga River fire of 1969 caused by oil slick in the river perhaps was the turning point for the river. The fire caused destruction worth $100,000 and burnt down railroad bridges. Strategies to clean up the river were put into place after the 1969 fire.

Bellandur Lake, Bangalore, India

Bellandur Lake is known for toxic pollutants that spill from the nearby industries. The lake has become a site for lake fires. Toxic chemical and garbage are usually dumped into the lake putting at risk of catching fire. A part of the lake caught fire in 2015. The fire spread to the nearby Sun City Apartments. The fire may have spread from the garbage fire around the lake. The fire sent panic among motorists who were driving nearby.

Is the Cuyahoga River the Only River To Ever Catch On Fire?

RankBody of Water Year of Fire
1Wenzhou, Zhejiang, China2014
2Rouge River, Detroit, United States1969
3Buffalo River, Buffalo, United States1968
4Schuylkill River, Philadelphia, United StatesLate 1800's
5Cuyohoga River, Cleveland, United States1952 and 1969
6Bellandur Lake, Bangalore, India2015

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