CINCINNATI -- On Aug. 19, 2004, Queen City Barrel, a 77-year-old industrial-container recycling business on the western edge of Downtown, erupted in flames. Even people who had never heard of the company, or the neighborhood of Lower Price Hill, watched live television coverage as the five-alarm fire’s smoky plume billowed and hung across the city.
Downtown and Clifton residents were warned to stay in their homes as winds shifted. News organizations scrambled to learn more about the company that had racked up years’ worth of environmental violations and had earned the lasting distrust of neighbors.
Gawkers drove from miles away to catch a glimpse of the action as residents in Lower Price Hill watched and waited for the ash to settle.
Ten years later, the building and barrels are gone. But still no one knows what caused the blaze that caused $5 million in damage. The site remains an empty lot, marketed for eight years as an 18-acre commercial park called MetroWest, and just this summer the Environmental Protection Agency granted its final approval that the land is good to build on. Many of the kids who watched the spectacular fire burn and inhaled the acrid smoke still live in the neighborhood rich in Appalachian heritage.
In Rising from the Ashes, WCPO remembers the fire and what led up to it in a series of stories and interactive media that explore the community, the hazardous waste business and the fire itself.