But, as Wired points out, it caught fire lots of other times between 1936 and 1939. The June 22, 1969 conflagration, however, was given nationwide coverage by Time, meaning people all across the nation got their first glimpse of a major river in a major city burning and thought, "Holy hell, that's not good."
Once again, as Wired points out, the June 22, 1969 fire wasn't even treated as big news here in Cleveland ("What? The river's on fire again. Dammit. Oh well, go put it out. And pick up some Polish boys on the way back.") with the fire chief calling it “a run of the mill fire.” But here we are, 42 years later, and it's still one of the first things that comes to mind when people hear the word "Cleveland." Well, that and Michael Stanley.