40 years ago yesterday the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio caught on fire. Again.
The 1969 Cuyahoga River fire was one of the seminal events in American environmental history, yet the conventional narrative about the fire is all wrong — including the famous picture that Time magazine published erroneously. News photographers failed to arrive in time to catch pictures of the quick blaze. The picture Time published was actually from 1952.
Although this river was particularly infamous for its flammibility, river fires were fairly common in Industrial Age America. Now the river is again healthy and "fish-friendly".